Before I launch into today's screed, let me first take a moment to make lame excuses for not keeping my blogging end up (so to speak). I don't know how some people who write for a living also write a blog. When I have writing chores to do, the last thing I want to do after a long day of pulling genius out of thin air is to write my blog. So that is my excuse. Oh yeah, I am also a lazy sod. Now, to the business at hand:
Pharmacists and the lack thereof:
Even in our current drug-addled culture it's hard not to notice that a new Walgreen Pharamacy is being built every twenty minutes and every Harris Teeter, Target and Wal-Mart is trying to get in on the pharmaceutical-vending action. Obviously, as any street-corner pusher will tell you, there is BIG money in drugs. What has really happened is that marketers working for drug companies have created a HUGE demand for their products without considering the limits of the supply side - where the drugs get into the hands of the end-users via little amber bottles served up in neat little white bags. So, that is the dilemma facing those who would cash in on the demand.
If you watch network TV news you might wonder how you've made it through life so far without benefitting from the multiple wonder-drugs that are curing diseases that you never even knew existed. I'm afraid to see how things are going in Iraq bcause I might find out during a commercial break that I am suffering from BPH (sometimes known as an enlarged prostate) or Irritable Bowel Syndrome or worse, Erectile Dysfunction (!) which I gather is something of an epidemic with my target demograph. The ubiquitous enjoinder "ask your doctor" also makes me wonder how many of us are on a first-name-basis with our physicians - hell, it takes me a couple of weeks to get on my doctor's calendar. When I do get an appointment I am always shocked and stunned when he fails to write me scripts for the latest and greatest medications that may, or may not, cure my many maladies - real and imagined. I feel like I'm being cheated.
My doctor must be an anomaly however because according to the News & Record there are not enough pharmacists out there to serve the real and imagined drug requirements of others. And by "others" I mean old people and when I say "old people" I'm talking about baby-boomers - my g-g-g-generation. We absolutely REFUSE to age gracefully - or otherwise.
So what do we do about this situation? The article suggests that we need more colleges to step up and graduate more pharmacists. But damn, becoming a pharmacist is hard! They have to learn all kinds of chemistry and drug-interations and stuff -- and for what? How many of them actually create the medicines they dispense? Very few. Most of what they do is count out pills or measure out potions. Oh sure, once in a great while they might see that the drug that doctor "x" prescribed will have a terminal conflict with the drug doctor "y" prescribed but how often does that happen? What most pharmacies need is high school graduates who can read and count to 30 (and on occasion, 50). Everything else is on computer. If the patient is taking, oh, say Paxil for example, count out the right number pills and then print out the drug warning that goes along with Paxil and staple it to the bag. Nobody reads those things anyway (that's why the TV drug commercials refer us to their ads in obscure "Golf" magazines.) Besides, who really wants to know what the drugs could potentially do to us - even if we could make sense out of the magazine articles. We sure don't need pharmacists, making upwards of 80K a year, ringing up sales of foot powder and hair gel now, do we, when a minimum wage clerk could do the job and not look so damned put-upon for doing it?
Of course, what the insurance companies would like us to do is to have us submit our prescriptions to THEIR pharmacies which we presume are in India and Thailand and where "pharmacists" work in sweat-shop-like conditions for 40 cents an hour but essentially get the same job done for a lot less dough. It's going that way whether we're ready for it or not.
In today's a go go
world we need to get our drugs as fast as possible. I see a future where the 50 most-commonly prescribed drugs are available in vending machines. The doctor encodes your prescription on a card (most likely your ATM card) you stick the card in a machine and voila! drugs are vended and your account is charged. None of this waiting-around in drug stores perusing the condom displays. And speaking of condoms, why isn't Viagra, Cialis et al, available in most men's rooms right next to the condom machines? If the drug causes an "unsafe drop in blood pressure" we'll know that soon enough. And what's the deal with priapism anyway? What if our errection lasts over 4 hours? Should we panic? And why exactly is it that were panicking? They never say.
Another possible solution would be to just let pharmacists prescribe drugs. I mean, if a pharmacist is smart enough to know which drug does what, why not just go to them in the first place, get your drugs on the spot and not have to make a separate trip to the doctor? Isn't this what Chinese herbalists do now?
The simplest solution would be to let every drug be available over the counter without a prescription (boy, the drug stores would clean up then, wouldn't they?). Using a simple computerized display like they have at auto parts stores you find your symptom, enter, your age, weight and the drug choices get flashed on the screen. You make your decision and check out. No pharmacist needed (and no doctor either).
Look for our VIC special on Nexium in Wednesday's flier.