Pharmacy's own "1984"

May 15, 2012

Pharmacists save the medical system millions of dollars every single day by keeping people away from the ER. They don't say thank you. And they don't even know that we're front-line money-savers.

That caused me to wonder what two words would sum up my career as a retail pharmacist.

I have had jobs where I enjoyed regular meal breaks and jobs where I was worked like a dog for long hours with no breaks. That's nothing special. There are thousands of us. At times I have been disrespected and disregarded; at other times my views and opinions have carried value. I have worked so many holidays and nights when my children were in school events that it became second nature. In the end, the two words reflecting on my career as a retail pharmacist are: I'm tired.

Can you imagine how tired the guy is who lost his independent pharmacy? It was a family pharmacy and he was the fourth generation. He worked in that store from the time he was 10 years old. His customers treated him like family. He was invited to weddings and he stood in the back at funerals. It was his life, and it is all gone.

Not because he was a bad pharmacist. Not because he was a bad drugstore merchant. Those skills kept him alive when the situation had become hopeless. This pharmacist failed because of low and slow PBM reimbursements. He had to pay the wholesaler in two weeks, while the PBMs did not pay him for two months.

How do you tell your daughter that she can't go to the church summer camp because there were too many prescriptions for drugs like Abilify and Provigil?

Fighting words

We have been bullied and bloodied by the PBMs. We are disrespected. The CEO of Medco said that pharmacists do not come out and dialogue with patients. A high school student hands them the script.

The PBMs are arrogant, divisive, and much too comfortable raking in the profits. They are acting like a kid on dope. No impulse control. They think they are bullet-proof. PBMs are for-profit engines, just like big banks.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were about 269,000 pharmacists in the U.S.A. in 2008. That's enough to push back with a heavy fist. We can't let Walgreens do it alone. We need to tag team and throw some solid left hooks.