This is the third and final part of my exploration into the Retail Pharmacy. I have spoken with doctors, pharmacist, technicians, managers and other professionals and what I discovered about the retail Pharmacy business is shocking.  This information was gathered from workers at the big chain pharmacies Rite Aide, Walgreens and CVS/Pharmacy.

Racism

There have been many articles, case studies and other ways to define or identify what racism is.  This is a tricky and touchy subject to gauge, so I have provided a few real stories. These are actual stories taken this year from your local pharmacy.

First here is the standard:

A Caucasian pharmacist, who routinely and inappropriately touched his female minority technicians was written up and the complaining technician was moved.

Another Caucasian pharmacist would openly pass gas in the pharmacy. He did this so much that he would at times soil himself. He would then go into the break room wash his undergarments and hang them up to dry, in plain view no less. He was written up and the complaining party was moved to another pharmacy. It sounds funny, but it is not, from what I was told the pharmacist was quite rank and that this went on for several month.

Minority Leadership Programs

Retail pharmacy corporations trumpet their diversity, as well as their programs initiated for minorities. What they don’t say is that the Federal Government gives them write-offs for such programs, nor do they mention that they get another tax write-off for hiring a minority.

Each of these corporations have minority leadership programs.  Recently, one company sent out an email inviting employees to the African-American Leadership Group. The email said that topics would be “Low Productivity, High Turn-Over and Absenteeism“.

The email for the Asian Leadership Group said the only topic would be “Communication”.

Books that are changing everything

Human Resources

A Regional pharmacy supervisor, who is Middle Eastern, told me that he has heard his bosses make racist comments toward him. Although he tells his workers to call Human Resources if they encounter this kind of problem, he acknowledges that he will never go to Human Resources with the issue. Everyone knows that Human Resources is there to save the company money and the minute you complain about something like this the clock is ticking on your employment.

Obvious Racism

*Pharmacy Corporate Executives always travel with managers and other executives*

An executive visited a store in Compton. When he saw that the prescription numbers were down, he said “If I get on the loudspeaker and started beat boxing I bet the prescription numbers will go up.

An executive entered a pharmacy in a neighborhood where the median income is $55,000 and median home price is $600,000. Upon seeing two African-American pharmacy technicians he promptly picked up his cellphone, called his friend on the east coast and said with a smile “Guess where I am? I’m deep in the hood now.”

Another executive remarked to a crowd of managers on the possible cause for a slight dip in the pharmacy’s customers service score, he said to the pharmacist “I know it is not you, it’s Those.” The only other people who worked in the pharmacy were African-American.

Here is a common case

A pharmacy executive toured a retail pharmacy and all of the comment she made were glowing, all except one, she said “We need to change the color scheme.”

Including the front store portion this pharmacy was 45% African-American, 30% Latino, 20% Asian and 5% white. Two weeks after this executive made her comment. The African-American General Manger was removed, The Asian supervisor was transferred. A Caucasian was brought into replace the General Manager while the other minorities hours were summarily cut. Every two weeks a minority was moved, fired or replaced. It goes without saying that minority workers are harassed, threaten with being fired, or have their hours cut as a matter or routine.

An African-American supervisor who was very tough on giving refunds was told to be more lenient on giving out refund to customers. Two weeks later they arrested this supervisor and brought them up on charges of fraud. Loss Preventions said that she was giving out too many refunds. Meanwhile at another location a General Manager had stolen $40,000 this person was merely fired.

6 months after this executive make the “Color Scheme” comment the store is 70% white, 15% African American, 10% Latino and 15% Asian. I assume they feel that the color scheme is now more manageable.

The National Perspective

With unemployment of minorities much higher than the national unemployment rate on 9.5,  you can see that this scenario is typical of what is and has been occurring all over America. The politicians will say that Americans need jobs, so the government sets out a jobs creation bill, enter the HIRE Act. It sounds reasonable, right?  Wrong. In most companies the executives, who are by-in-large Caucasians and who generally  occupy positions of authority, from executives down to supervisors, have a tendency to hire people who have “similar backgrounds to their own“.  As the economy grows more jobs will be created, but this squeezing out of minorities allows the overall unemployment numbers to stay high. This is what happens when you let the “Market Correct Itself“. This is what happens when you place your emphasis on “Hope”. This is what happens when we no longer pay attention. This is what happens when our elected officials stop working for the people and begin working for themselves. Ultimately, this is what happens when the wrong people are in charge.

President Barack Obama talks a lot about the 17 Billion in tax cuts to big business, he talks a lot about spurring on small businesses, but he never talks about race. He talks about incentives, and growth, but where are our incentives to grow as a nation? The real victims are more than voiceless masses and campaign slogans. These people vote, these people are hard working, law-abiding U.S. citizens and now they are victims of not only the recession, but racism as well. Surely this can’t be happening… maybe my examples can be explained in another way? Perhaps we just don’t want to confront the issue or maybe we no longer have the stomach for it. With regard to racism there are those of us that believe that this issue will just go away and there are those of us that know that this issue wont just go away.

These scenarios that I detailed have nothing to do with skill level or education, upon further examination you realize that many of these pharmacy  executives have little to no experience in the positions they are hired for and it goes without saying that minorities are promoted slower than Caucasians. Most pharmaceutical workers are intelligent,  nice and completely under appreciated not only by the corporations which employ them, but also by the customers they serve.

MG’s Health Word:

Long term use of (Proton Pump Inhibitors) PPIs can substantially increase your risk of fractures.
Today death caused by prescription drugs now out number traffic fatalities, yet law enforcement spends tax dollars on marijuana and alcohol.

(Generally speaking Heartburn means don’t eat that)

For Reference (White unemployment rate 8%, Latino 14%, Black 17%)

Ethics Sexism

This is the second part of my exploration into the Retail Pharmacy. I have spoken with doctors, pharmacist, technicians, managers and other professionals and what I discovered about the retail Pharmacy business is pretty shocking.  This report is not about the miss-fills and errors, because much of that is under control and minimal besides Night line has already done those type of reports. Those ABC reports will be nothing like this series of articles. Besides while ABC is doing its special report on “Shopping Carts” this information has to be told, how else are we going to talk about it.  This gathered information is from workers at the big chain pharmacies  Rite Aide, Walgreens and CVS/Pharmacy.

The retail pharmacies have various slogans make it seem like that are here to help the public, but really the only exist to help you maintain your condition. Recently they have told their employees that they will get a 6% raise, but only gave them 4% raise, this is despicable, it is a recession so who is going to complain. Sure the 700% mark-ups and $8 per pill dispensing fees are unreasonable. Merger after merger has made these companies so powerful that no one cares when the corporation cuts an employees clock-in grace period time from 7 to 3 minutes in order to save money, but who is actually paying attention.

Ethics

Most pharmacist are considered experts in their field. However, the opinion of pharmacist are disregarded by the pharmacy companies that employ them. When it comes to medications, the patient and the business suits always seem to know more than the pharmacist. Pharmacist are routinely told to fill prescriptions that they know are fake to bolster sales, that also includes the patients that are frequently over medicating.

Pharmacist are routinely told to switch customers from brand name drugs to generic drugs. They are told this for several reasons; One the pharmacy gets a bigger profit off of the generic drug and two it often provides the customer with little to no savings on their insurance. This practice is a win-win for both the pharmacy and insurance company.

For example: Your doctor writes you a prescription for Vytorin. Vytorin is a brand only drug that does not have a generic. The insurance company won’t cover, charges a much higher co-pay or just does not want to pay the higher amount for the Vytorin, so they instructs the pharmacist to call your doctor to change your Vytorin prescription to Zocor (Zocor’s generic is Simvastatin which they will pay for) . They will do this and tell you that it will save you money, but in actuality the pharmacist and insurance companies know that Simvastatin does not do the same thing as Vytorin.  The doctor only prescribed you Vytorin because some hot female drug rep came into his office and told them to do it. I am not a doctor, but this all could have been avoided because Zocor by itself should be tried first, this is common knowledge.

Conscience Clauses

If a pharmacist has an ethical, moral or religious objection to dispensing Emergency Contraception, or Abortion Pills, they will be coerced into doing so, or moved to the worst and often violent pharmacy locations. Not only are Moral and Ethical obligations taught in Pharmacy school The American Pharmacists Association policy “recognizes the individual pharmacist’s right to exercise conscientious refusal and supports the establishment of systems to ensure patient access to legally prescribed therapy without compromising the pharmacist’s right of conscientious refusal. States have and may pass laws that restrict religious expression, but that is another matter for the Supreme Court to argue in regard to “Conscience Clauses.” By the way those companies charge $50 for the Emergency contraception pill(s), but the same dosage in a different form is and has been available for years at less than $12. By marketing these companies are using your reproductive process against you. Don’t believe me look it up…

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Harassment

Pharmacist have been directed to sign up customers for various programs, sometimes this is done without the patient’s knowledge. The calls and messages can be unending. For example you may be placed in an automatic refill program, which automatically refills your prescription each month. This auto refill happens each month whether you need the medication or not, almost forcing the patient to pick up the medication. The understaffed pharmacy personell is instructed to call each patient at least 3-4 times per week to ask if they want or need their medications. On paper this seems like a good program, but most customers and pharmacist feel that it is harassment. Many customers feel that these companies are only reminding them that they have an illness, or a condition for profit. These programs are not designed to help patients, they are designed to keep them dependent on pharmaceuticals.

Merry-go-round

Pharmacies switch customers drugs as often as every two months. This is especially true if the patient is on Thyroid, Birth Control, High Blood Pressure and Diabetes medications. What happens is that the corporation will order whatever is the cheapest generic medication that quarter. That cheaper product is not always the medication that you are accustomed to, so you make end up medication that is a different size, different color, different shape or different tasting than the one you are used to.

Insurance Coverage

Retail pharmacies have been cutting their employee children insurance. They have done this by introducing a few new provisions, one of which states that “you can not arbitrarily cover your child if they do not live with you.” This provision only affect a small percentage of employees and most of them are men. The amount of verifications and hoop jumping employees have to go through to get their children covered is absurd.

Coupons

Yes we all have done it. Transfer your prescription out of one pharmacy and into another one just to get one of those $25 gift cards.  It’s a recession and people need the extra money.  However, these quarterly promotions do more than fill your pockets with gift cards.  Pharmacies run sophisticated computer software that automatically checks drug interactions chain wide. The problem arises when you transfer prescriptions from other chains, or back and forth from chain to chain. Moving your medication from one pharmacy chain to another actually increase your chances of having a drug interaction, because there is no way for the computer to check another chain’s computer database. This is another one of many concerns that have fallen on deaf ears.

Transfers

Lets say that you want to transfer a prescription from one pharmacy chain to another, sounds simple enough, right? Pharmacist have been instructed to either call the other pharmacy back, or to put them on hold, while they call the customer to convince them to not move their prescription. Sometimes this is done by using disparaging remarks about another retail chain, or just making it difficult for them to do so. Who wants to wait on their medication while these companies play a corporate numbers games with each another?

The public should have never let Corporate Pharmacies and big Pharm define the terms of the debate and legislative agenda. Most pharmaceutical workers are intelligent,  nice and completely under appreciated not only by the corporations which employ them, but also by the customers they serve.

MG’s Health Advice: The Pap Smear is not as accurate to detect cervical cancer and HPV. Right now there are 10 million people on daily prescription drugs, with no medical need. Every 16 minutes someone dies from prescription drug use.

“New drug doesn’t mean better drug. ”

Sexism Racism

Walgreens has announced that they will no longer honor CVS/Pharmacy drug plan.

 

It has been said that prayer changes things, well here is my story. My four year old son has always been a free spirited soul. He runs and jumps with reckless abandon. Whenever we go shopping he always gets to get underneath our shopping cart, who knows why.

Going to school and playing in the sand are major parts of his daily activities as they should be. However, things have changed he is no longer allowed to run, throw, or hide underneath shopping carts. He is no longer allowed to play unsupervised. As parent, little did we know that something was looming undetected, something that changed everything for my son and everything for us.

A few months ago my four year old son was diagnosed with a rare eye condition. Diagnosis: Extreme Amblyopia, refractive myopia… basically he is blind in his right eye. Although this news was shocking, his mother and I developed a plan as an effort to reverse this condition. This plan includes “patching” his left eye (the 20-20 eye) for up to six hours a day, contacts, glasses, poly-carbonate lens, a lot of heart-ache and even more prayer. Needless to say the remedy and therapy were tough for the little fella, as well as us. After a few months, my son could only see about four feet in front of him and what he could see was blurry. Why was it necessary to take these extreme measures with his therapy? Because eye input controls brain function, no eye input equals no brain function. By patching the left eye it forces his brain to sort of rewire itself to make use of his right eye.

Every time I  “patched” my son, I would ask him what can you see? With a smile he would say “Dad I can see everything”, something I knew wasn’t true. If he were left unattended for any period of time he would peel off the patch so that he could peek out of the corner, or he would take out his contact because he couldn’t really see.

After two months of fighting, crying, spending and praying my son’s response changed to “Dad I can’t see” usually followed by tears.

My son’s condition is said to be so rare that he is 1 out o 125,000 children. Mind you that all of this is happening as my new book is making the round, I have been invited to do radio show, I have a regular job and other children, so what is a father to do. My son is no idiot, we often have to restrain him to put the contact in his eye. Dealing with a four year old and fear can be tricky, the first facility we went to said that they were not equipped to handle him. As parents to say that we were helpless in this situation is an understatement. I became hardcore, because I knew what was at stake for my son. So I decided to toss away my sorrow, and I remembered how I cured asthma a decade earlier and the difficulty and negativity I experienced during that process, but more on that later.

The contact goes in… no compromise and a song is born… “Don’t touch the glasses, don’t move the glasses, these are my glasses”, a melody that is sure to be a household hit.

My question to the experts was what is his prognosis? There answer: Basketball-out, Soccer-out, Football-out even Water Polo was out as well as a lot of other activities. Okay, no problem, that just means more reading and writing… Did I mention the dyslexia? Because on his eye condition my son  interprets  letters and number incorrectly.

Side note this condition also causes my son to behave what what I deem somewhat “Neanderthalish”, which is equally frustrating for everyone. He falls a lot. He gets injured every day. I don’t even know how he plays like the other kids, but my best guess is that he is using the force.

“Patching”  his good eye basically renders him sightless and forces the brain to use the unpatched eye.

1-Month: No noticeable improvement in vision, still fighting us. More singing. His 15-years old sister decides to call her older sister to apologize for all the pain she caused her when she was younger.

3 Months: Less fighting, still singing. Family members begin to realize the depth of the situation. His mother deserves a whole lot of credit.

6 Months: Hugs are given. Hope is found, routine established. The song is family wide now. Slight improvement in vision is noticeable. Attitude is up and down.

We return to the doctor. My son, with his eye patched, sits down in the chair. The doctor displays a large image on the projector and before the doctor could asked what do you see, my son excitedly exclaims “An Airplane!” His mother smiled. The doctor said “Remarkable”, I shed a single tear. six months a ago he saw four feet in front of him. The doctor said that his improvement was exponential and he was amazed at how fast this approach seemed to be working.

I held my son’s hand as we left the doctor’s office. As we walked back towards the car he asked me for some gum. I said “No gum”. He said, “But dad I listened to the doctor, I didn’t cry and now we are leaving the doctors. I need some gum.” His response stopped me in my tracks because I realized that he recalled the conversation we had when we initially tried to put the contact in six months ago. He actually remembered the conversation verbatim. He would later performed the same memory trick on his mother, in regard to when his patching for the day would be over. Perhaps,the side-effect of the therapy is an improved memory. I picked up my son, hugged and kissed him and said “You know what son… you can have some gum”.

Prayer really does change everything.

*Make sure you get your child’s eyes checked early as possible*

Update: a year into the patching and eye improvement has stunted. Decide to patch 20 hours a day. Kindergartner is extremely trying.

Update: A year in a half into patching Experts agree to abandon patching is no longer working. We decide on whether to hold him back or push him forward in school.

Update: We decide to push him forward. He is slowly catching up.