Pharmacy should be shaken AND stirred


What our profession needs right now is some attitude. Seriously.


Pharmacy badly needs a hero right now. Every story I hear in the national news, on the online blogs, and from my personal grapevine has the same theme. Pharmacy is being demeaned by employers, indifferent pharmacy boards, out-of-touch academicians, and our own loss of mojo. The “Most Trusted Profession” is turning into the “Most Trampled Profession.”

At present, the news media are having a heyday with unauthorized prescription refills, alleged prescription fraud, pharmacies shuttered for excessive narcotic dispensing, and substandard compounding practices causing patient deaths.

Not all of this can be laid at the feet of the practicing pharmacist, but we have allowed it to happen. Emboldened by a surplus of pharmacists for the first time in many years, chain-pharmacy middle management is making all the calls now, and they are mostly bad. Never have I heard so much despair and discontent voiced by pharmacists.

Sam had the right idea

I remember a friend from my early retail days, whom we’ll call “Sam.” Whenever we had a meeting with management and would talk about it later, Sam would say: “Hey, Goose, who do you think was the toughest sonofagun in the room?” (I’m paraphrasing here.)

Sam’s theory was that if you weren’t the toughest in the room, you had better know who was. Honestly, every time, I thought Sam was the toughest person in the room. He just had a look that made you not want to confront him.


Back in the day

It was different back then. There was more give-and-take with management, along with more respect from both parties. Everyone involved was a pharmacist, and pharmacists managed all the stores.

It wasn’t like arguing with God when you disagreed. You could still get in trouble, but it wasn’t common. Management was more proactive in those days and solved problems ahead of time. Issues were discussed calmly and face-to-face. No e-mails, phone calls, metrics, or other crazy stuff to worry about.

The name is Bond

Yeah, we need a hero. We need a leader who can innovate, improvise, and motivate. We need a person who is mentally and physically tough. Someone who can throw some weight around when needed, especially when dealing with people who want to control the world. A person who is intelligent, who understands technology and all the latest gadgets. Our hero should be able to communicate effectively with all types of people from all kinds of backgrounds. He should look professional and insist on competence from the individuals around him.

I can tell you the just the person we need.

The name is Bond, James Bond.

Just hear me out

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not looking for someone with a “license to kill” - even though that could be tempting.

James Bond, agent 007, has been a cultural icon for 50 years. I’m sure everyone reading this commentary has either seen a Bond movie or is familiar with the genre. Think about what you know about the character. He gets into tough scrapes against really bad people. Using technology to his advantage, he usually turns a situation around against long odds. He isn’t meek and afraid when dealing with villains; he's flippant and gets right in their faces. While he respects his superiors, he will bend the rules to get the job done.

Even Sam would have said that Bond is always the toughest sonofagun in the room.

Give it a shot

I’ll bet you think Goose had finally lost it this time, but I couldn’t be more serious.

Let’s quit acting like a bunch of wimps and put some cool into pharmacy. Get a little of the Bond swagger. Bend (not break) a few rules. Watch a Bond movie or two, pick up some of his dry wit, and have a little fun with your superiors. I’m sure your bosses are so dense they won’t even know you’re making fun of them.

Develop a “look” like my friend Sam’s. Practice it on customers who yell and scream at you. When they quit yelling and walk away, you’ll know you’ve got it just right.

My kids, now in their 30s, could tell you all about my “look.” No dialogue needed to get your point across.

Here’s the thing

Worried about your job? Here’s the reality. On our present path, we’re all rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic anyway. Our current business model will not continue to support what we're being paid for what we do.

We have to take back our profession, because the people who currently control it are destroying it. It’s time to quit linking success to dispensing volume; we need to transition to getting paid for positive health outcomes in our patients.

How about this litmus test: When was the last time you read or heard something positive or good about pharmacy? It’s all bad right now, as if SPECTRE has taken over the world and Blofeld is running the company.

How’s it working for you?

We’ve tried the wimpy, weak, submissive way of doing things. And hey, how’s that working for ya?

Get out there and save the world. Well, the pharmacy world anyway. It’ll be cool, just like Bond.

Make this your new theme song; it’s an oldie but a goodie:

“What does it matter to you, when you got a job to do, you gotta do it well ... you gotta give the other fellow hell.”

Jim “Goose” Rawlings, a frequent contributor to Drug Topics, is a senior pharmacist in central Indiana. E-mail him at

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