Thursday, September 14, 2006

Pharmacist's Blues

This was sent to me by a dear friend who is a pharmacist. I found it both amusing, and very enlightening.

Why your Pharmacist hates you so much....
Sunday, August 06, 2006
I Realize Today I've Done You A Disservice
WARNING: This post may be painful for those in the profession to read.

For over a year and a half now, the first thing anyone visiting my
little blog garden has seen under the headline at the top of the page
is the promise that the question of "why does my prescription take so
damn long to fill" will be answered. Tonight I looked over this blogs
archives and realized it was a promise not kept. While many topics
have been covered here, and you have been provided with ample evidence
of how drugstore workday life does indeed warp the mind, the question
of why it took 2 hours for you to get 20 Vicodin has remained
unanswered. I can't help but to think there may be someone out there
who has been logging on every day for the last 18 months hoping in
vain for this mystery to be solved. Should such a person exist, I
offer my humble apologies. To everyone else, I offer the following
prescription scenario:

You come to the counter. I am on the phone with a drunk dude who wants
the phone number to the grocery store next door. After I instruct him
on the virtues of 411, you tell me your doctor was to phone in your
prescription to me. Your doctor hasn't, and you're unwilling to wait
until he does. Being in a generous mood, I call your doctors office
and am put on hold for 5 minutes, then informed that your prescription
was phoned in to my competitor on the other side of town. Phoning the
competitor, I am immediately put on hold for 5 minutes before speaking
to a clerk, who puts me back on hold to wait for the pharmacist. Your
prescription is then transferred to me, and now I have to get the 2
phone calls that have been put on hold while this was being done. Now
I return to the counter to ask if we've ever filled prescriptions for
you before. For some reason, you think that "for you" means "for your
cousin" and you answer my question with a "yes", whereupon I go the
computer and see you are not on file.

The phone rings.

You have left to do something very important, such as browse through
the monster truck magazines, and do not hear the three PA
announcements requesting that you return to the pharmacy. You return
eventually, expecting to pick up the finished prescription.....

The phone rings.

......only to find out that I need to ask your address, phone number,
date of birth, if you have any allergies and insurance coverage. You
tell me you're allergic to codeine. Since the prescription is for
Vicodin I ask you what exactly codeine did to you when you took it.
You say it made your stomach hurt and I roll my eyes and write down
"no known allergies" You tell me......

The phone rings. have insurance and spend the next 5 minutes looking for your
card. You give up and expect me to be able to file your claim anyway.
I call my competitor and am immediately put on hold. Upon reaching a
human, I ask them what insurance they have on file for you. I get the
information and file your claim, which is rejected because you changed
jobs 6 months ago. An asshole barges his way to the counter to ask
where the bread is.

The phone rings.

I inform you that the insurance the other pharmacy has on file for you
isn't working. You produce a card in under 10 seconds that you seemed
to be unable to find before. What you were really doing was hoping
your old insurance would still work because it had a lower copay. Your
new card prominently displays the logo of Nebraska Blue Cross, and
although Nebraska Blue cross does in fact handle millions of
prescription claims every day, for the group you belong to, the claim
should go to a company called Caremark, whose logo is nowhere on the

The phone rings.

A lady comes to the counter wanting to know why the cherry flavored
antacid works better than the lemon cream flavored antacid. What
probably happened is that she had a milder case of heartburn when she
took the cherry flavored brand, as they both use the exact same
ingredient in the same strength. She will not be satisfied though
until I confirm her belief that the cherry flavored brand is the
superior product. I file your claim with Caremark, who rejects it
because you had a 30 day supply of Vicodin filled 15 days ago at
another pharmacy. You swear to me on your mother's'....

The phone rings. that you did not have a Vicodin prescription filled
recently. I call Caremark and am immediately placed on hold. The most
beautiful woman on the planet walks buy and notices not a thing. She
has never talked to a pharmacist and never will. Upon reaching a human
at Caremark, I am informed that the Vicodin prescription was indeed
filled at another of my competitors. When I tell you this, you say you
got hydrocodone there, not Vicodin. Another little part of me dies.

The phone rings.

It turns out that a few days after your doctor wrote your last
prescription, he told you to take it more frequently, meaning that
what Caremark thought was a 30-day supply is indeed a 15 day supply
with the new instructions. I call your doctor's office to confirm this
and am immediately placed on hold. I call Caremark to get an override
and am immediately placed on hold. My laser printer has a paper jam.
It's time for my tech to go to lunch. Caremark issues the override and
your claim goes though. Your insurance saves you 85 cents off the
regular price of the prescription.

The phone rings.

At the cash register you sign....

The phone rings.

......the acknowledgement that you received a copy of my HIPPA policy
and that I offered the required OBRA counseling for new prescriptions.
You remark that you're glad that your last pharmacist told you you
shouldn't take over the counter Tylenol along with the Vicodin, and
that the acetaminophen you're taking instead seems to be working
pretty well. I break the news to you that Tylenol is simply a brand
name for acetaminophen and you don't believe me. You fumble around for
2 minutes looking for your checkbook and spend another 2 minutes
making out a check for four dollars and sixty seven cents. You ask why
the tablets look different than those you got at the other pharmacy. I
explain that they are from a different manufacturer. Tomorrow you'll
be back to tell me they don't work as well.

Now imagine this wasn't you at all, but the person who dropped off
their prescription three people ahead of you, and you'll start to have
an idea why.....your prescription takes so damn long to fill.

A year and a half late, but a promise kept. I feel better about myself


pikaresque said...

That was very funny!
My sister now works at a deli in CT, and she has some lovely
people-waiting-for-her-to-"cut-the-cheese"(as it were)-stories.

Most humans can be real ass-hats.

Then there's us..............

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Anonymous said...

How many customers really ask a retail pharmacist any substantial question that isn't answered on the package insert, labels, or the internet?
Darn few.

Retail pharmacists often get paid more than hospital pharmacists who must mix complex IVs and who deal with critically ill patients.

Retail pharmacists have low-paid techs do most of their work. And they do very little, if any, compounding anymore. They simply deal with the paperwork and billing and counting/matching pills. Computers tell them of drug interactions.

Keep justifying $100K overpaid clerks. It's one reason why medicines cost more than they need to.

Of course, they have a protected profession, with limited spaces in Pharmacy school, to keep the salaries up.

I was at a Pharmacy board hearing a couple of years ago, and they revoked the license of a pharmacist who allowed his son (either high school, or non-pharmacy college student) to fill about 200 scripts over a several hour period. The ironic thing is:
the kid made no mistakes--at least no known ones.

Anonymous said...

We've been going to-------Pharmacy a private pharmacy of ---------- for 25 years. They started using young kids and running out of drugs lately. They shorted the lady next in line and she complained. We step up, different drug, got the prescription filled for 40 pills. Went home and counted 30. They denied it, but after complaining how wrong we customers are, they made good.

Our last two visits to a pharmacist were to fill prescriptions for antibiotics to treat critical infections.

It's like medicine in a third world country. I have to call my family doctor after filling the prescription to ask whether it is the right meds, dosage, length and refills? The doctor should have the right to fill prescriptions right in the office.

Pharmacists complain like everyone else how stupid people/customers can be. You've got a lot to learn a lot about people, how to deal with them and your responsibility. One screw up by the doctor, nurse or pharmacist can kill people and they never know what happened. A double conflict by some overworked night doctor and you just fill it. Would you ever admit you killed someone?

I'll ask you what this is for and why it looks different. You have an attitude, you not only loose my business, I'll tell everyone I know your an ---hole. You screw up my scripts I'll put you down.

You don't like it? Quit.
It kills me or your gonna be making ham burgers? I said medium rare. Hold the mayo lad.

Anonymous said...

In the days of Apothecaries, I can understand your profession, but frankly, when we automate and digitize medical records more, your job will go by the wayside. I see no problem walking up to a Automated Counter, scanning my barcoded prescription ticket, the computer checking everything (much more comprehensively and faster than you ever can), and giving me my pills, instead of waiting around for some busybody (or not) deciding when to give me my turn.

Hey, 20th century called. They want their job back.