Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Are We a Pharmacy Today or Not?

One of the pharmacies I work at is a small store with a pharmacist-in-charge who is very stingy with inventory. You'd think the purchasing money was coming out of his own pocket. Part of this is probably a personality quirk but I'm sure he gets a pat on the back from the head honchos for keeping inventory costs low.

Of course, he's not there on the days I work, and one of my biggest frustrations right now is not having drugs in stock & having to constantly fill partial prescriptions and 'owe' people the rest. I feel bad enough that I usually offer to mail it to the customer (IF it's an item that can be mailed) --- so, we get hit for mailing costs anyway. Seems it would be cheaper to just have enough in stock. I can almost tell just by looking at a prescription when it's handed in that we're unlikely to have enough (TWO bottles of Peridex??? -- ha, you wish). And yes, we've got the computerized inventory system which is supposed to replace what is used, but when he's got the par levels set ridiculously low it doesn't work so well. Plus, as we all know, you cannot rely on people to call in the day before to order their refills. We lost that battle a long time ago.

People get annoyed when this happens constantly. They're coming in every month for the same damn thing and we're always short. I'm mailing one tablet here and two tablets there. People claim they didn't get the balance of their prescription, or dispute the amount they were owed. What a headache !! Just KEEP SOME DRUGS on the shelf !!!!!!

Oh, and by the way, maybe the 4th or 5th time somebody asks for an OTC product we don't carry, maybe we could, y'know.....CARRY IT. I have no business training at all, but this seems like a swell idea to me.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Oh, Baby

This couple came into the pharmacy last week with a newborn baby. Now, I think it's safe to assume that they were the parents, and I swear the Dad looked about 15 years old.
Mom didn't look much older. I've got professional co-workers in their 30's who just had babies and are overwhelmed and exhausted. I can only imagine how these kids are feeling.

I also worked with a technician recently who I was meeting for the first time. She was telling me how she had been admitted to a very competitive college program a few years back, but didn't like it and dropped out. I'm not sure what happened in the interim, but today she has a school-age child and infant TWINS. She is a single mom, and drawing some state assistance.

I'm sure the kids are all real cute, but I'm a practical person. I can't help but think of the struggles ahead for people like these. I can't quite figure out how people find themselves in these situations. Life can be messy, I know, but........??

In my view, birth control is an essential part of public health (and public economic health, too). I get really irritated with old-guy politicians and other morally-superior folks who want to make birth control sound like merely an excuse for wild women everywhere to have promiscuous sex. And the issue of pharmacists who won't dispense birth control because of a moral objection has always exasperated me. I most certainly understand the differing views on dispensing something that interferes with an established pregnancy, but that's clearly not what we're talking about here.

If a pharmacist has a problem with the idea of birth control, they cannot work in a retail/community setting. There's just no way around it. They can work in other areas where they will never need to come in contact with birth control, if that's their issue --- hospital, pediatric, long term care pharmacy, industry, academia --- and they will suffer no loss in income, prestige, or opportunity for advancement -- so there's no need to cry discrimination.

I must admit I don't get it -- how someone can go through all the training that pharmacists must endure without understanding that birth control is part of public health. When women control their own fertility it has a demonstrable effect on poverty rates, the workforce, and the economy. I'm not saying don't have kids, I'm saying have them when it's the right time in your life.

I know it's a complicated issue. But WOW, did that baby's daddy look young.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Feeling Sorry for Myself.. Waaaaaa

I'm trying to focus enough to write today, cause I am totally incapacitated by allergies!
What the heck is doing this to me I don't know. I'm going to start sounding like one of those customers that gives the litany of disgusting symptoms I don't want to hear about -- post nasal drip that causes a sore throat and that tingly, itchy sensation in your nose and on the roof of your mouth. My usually reliable Allegra isn't working. Zyrtec isn't working. I take Benadryl at night and in the morning I feel like I had 12 martinis. I'm now going to move into the hard-core cold medications and keep piling on till something works.

Cripes, I'm actually woozy. Okay all you allergy customers, I'll join you (just for today) on the WAHHHH--mbulance........

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Waste Not, Want Not

I am glad to see "waste, fraud and abuse" being talked about in the debate on health care reform and I think addressing it is something everyone can agree on. I certainly know there are vast amounts of prescription drugs wasted every day by people who don't use them or don't use them properly. Pharmacy staff are all too familiar with the customers who believe that if their copay is $10 then that must be what the drug costs. We also know lots of people will take a few doses of something, decide it doesn't work, and never touch it again. I was reminded of this the other day when I watched a 3-month supply of a prescription leave the pharmacy --- cost, over $800, copay, $3.

A few months ago I saw a "60 Minutes" segment on Medicare fraud --- a guy talking about stealing millions from Medicare by submitting fraudulent claims for wheelchairs, artificial limbs, etc., through a fake company. He said it was like taking candy from a baby. Estimates of Medicare fraud go up as high as 70+ billion dollars a year (that's BILLion). And of course fake 'pharmacies' are right in there too. The report mentioned certain areas of the country, like south Florida, where it's a huge problem.

I think our government should make it the highest priority to go after this stuff. Talk about creating jobs, too --- lets get armies of field inspectors out there! They would pay for themselves in one day. They wouldn't even need a whole lot of training; in fact, people could work out of their homes, couldn't they? They could screen suspicious claims or concentrate on certain areas of the country. They could call up the person on whose behalf the claim was submitted...."Say, did you in fact receive that $7000 customized wheelchair from FakeIt Medical Supply?" If they say no, well ---- boom, that's money straight back in to the Treasury. We're talking about saving billions here. Am I oversimplifying this? I think it would be a blast!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

And Then He Jumped Off the Couch, and................

I've indicated before that I'm not a very good conversationalist when I am working. I have to concentrate... that's just me. When there's nothing going on of course, I am happy to do the chit-chat. Either way, there are some people that insist on keeping up a steady stream of conversation even when they MUST know I CAN'T listen to what they are saying.

Lately I feel like I've been bombarded with people who want to tell me stories about something their pet did. Long, detailed stories, just as if the animal is a person. Now, I like animals just fine. Listening to stories about someone's 2-year old kid can get pretty grim, but listening to the 15th accounting of that darn cat's antics is really putting my teeth on edge.

Kind of crabby, I know. It's been a long winter.

Monday, March 1, 2010

I Hate Being Forced to Sell Crap

There are still a lot of snake-oil remedies out there in the big-box chain pharmacies. In my job I don't usually have to deal with people asking if the Chaser hangover remedy really works, or if they should use some weird de-toxifying thing that is prominently displayed on our shelves. I can vouch for most of the OTC items we carry. Sure, there are some that I don't think are very good, like the sub-therapeutic-dose multi-symptom cold products, but for the most part I wouldn't tell someone "it's useless, don't throw your money away."

I don't have any real training in marketing or business, but I do know there is a sucker born every minute. The same people who loudly protest a $25 copay will gladly fork over that much and more for a 'natural, homeopathic' remedy. I take a dim view of that stuff. Sorry, but the placebo effect is very strong, and these are some really expensive placebos.

Unfortunately, some of these products are starting to creep into our inventory. Some non-pharmacy, remotely-situated retailing geniuses apparently think they will be a moneymaker (and they probably will.) We don't have a 'front-store' and a 'back-store' --- it's all one store, which means not only will I have to ring the stuff up, I will get asked what I think of it.

I'm going to be honest. But even if I nicely suggest another product with some true pharmaceutical evidence behind it, the customer is left wondering why we carry the first item at all. I hate being put in this position. I 'm not going to pretend I am happy to sell this stuff. But if I say what I am really thinking ("somebody who I've never even met has decided we need to carry this junk") I come across as .... well, a disgruntled employee?
I need a way around this...... know what I mean?