The Jungle- Part 2

       Do you think it’s time for a documentary film showcasing the current state of community pharmacy?  I’m here today to argue the answer is yes. 

       It’s been a little over 100 years since Upton Sinclair’s famous book The Jungle went to print.  The film version of his depiction of the meat-packing industry in the United States was released a few years later under the same title. 

       Sinclair did a lot with his well known piece of literature.  He tackled corporate greed and corruption, terrible working conditions, and educated the public regarding the dangers of tainted meat distribution.  

       What Sinclair did most effectively was explain the public health danger that these meat-processing plants posed.  People became concerned for the safety of the meat they were eating.  And that concern sparked real change.

       Fast forward one hundred years and you can now witness another industry that is battling many of the same problems.  Community pharmacy is now facing a similar crisis and the general public is either not aware of the problem or they simply haven’t been explained why it matters. 

       What needs to be done now is expose the general public to the health dangers of operating community pharmacies that are understaffed with pharmacists who are over-worked.  Make the association between dangerous working conditions and misfills.  If people realized the health dangers of frequent prescription misfills, they might react with a similar outrage that Sinclair’s work caused. 

       Focusing education efforts on the plight of pharmacy employees seems like it’s the way to the hearts of the public.  But Sinclair succeeded at change not because of worker sympathy, but because of public safety concerns and the associated outrage. 

       While most of the public may not sympathize with a pharmacist who is over-worked, they can relate to a grandmother who is hospitalized due to a medication error.  And that is the message someone needs to tell.

       I think the current state of community pharmacy warrants a sequel to The Jungle.  And a documentary film that is open and honest about community pharmacy might just be the perfect way to expose the truth.  

       The working conditions at the average community pharmacy has deteriorated to a level that puts the general public at risk.  The sooner someone from within the profession exposes this truth, the better we will all be in the long run.

       It’s time to expose the corruption and greed that corporate pharmacies exhibit.  It’s time to challenge the boards that turn a blind eye to real problems.  It’s time to point fingers and to put numbers and faces to the medication errors that results from under-staffing pharmacies. 

        I think an effort such as a documentary film that specifically addresses community pharmacy’s plight could be a real impetus for change.  But who is willing to shine a light into our profession’s dark corners?  Who will be willing to ask the tough questions and demand answers? 

        It’s time for the public to see an honest look at community pharmacy.  It’s time for a sequel to a book that caused real change. 

        Pharmacy simply needs to find someone willing to do what it takes to get out the truth.  We need our industry exposed for what it’s now become.  We need our own Upton.

The Redheaded Pharmacist

3 Comments to “The Jungle- Part 2”

  1. By 10 Years In, December 7, 2012 @ 9:54 am

    Interestingly Sinclair’s goal was not related to the consumer at all but rather the plight of the worker in the horrendous conditions. It was simply the fact that the public was more horrified by the aspects of the working conditions that impacted them than they were the focused on the worker’s aspect of his work. I think that is pretty relevant to us as well. Unless we can give the public a view of what “dangers,” real or perceived, that impact them directly then there will be no desire on the public’s side to change anything. If we do not put the issues in terms that the public cares about and can understand then we will have serious problems.

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  2. By Pharmaciststeve, December 7, 2012 @ 7:24 pm

    There has been numerous stories about pharmacy’s problems.. ABC and USA TODAY have both done expose and while the public becomes concerned and the concern typically wanes in days/weeks.. and it is back to business as usual for all involved.

    There are rumors out there that the chains have systematic programs in place to “pay off” pts who experience med errors.. even when a lawsuit is filed.. it is typically settled before it goes to trial… with a confidentially agreement.. so no one can talk about it… while the chain typically admits “no wrong doing”.. It would appear that the last thing that the chain wants is for an attorney to “go fishin'” in the corporate archives during a deposition.

    The media may be cautious to take on the chains.. because the chains spend so much in advertising dollars and that could be withdrawn if the media does something that the chains does not like…

    All the errors are a good source of revenue for attorneys and so could they not want to kill that goose that is laying all those “golden eggs” … so they just keep suing them for med errors and don’t fight to make it well known or publicized.

    The majority of the BOP’s are top heavy with non-practicing corporate pharmacists.. and most BOP’s are not funded well.. so they don’t have the resources to keep track of med errors…nor do they seemingly want to.

    The vast majority of RPH’s are passive introverts and always paranoid about losing their job if they speak up.. and are reluctant to document issues that their employers implement

    the way that med errors are increasing.. at some point.. it would appear that the cost of settling these errors will equal or exceed the profit from the Rx dept.

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  3. By LDPlaceboeffect, December 7, 2012 @ 7:57 pm

    It would take more than one eye-opening book to describe the profession. Ordinary people without a medical background would not understand how duty, knowledge, and balancing roles of interpreter, overseer, enforcer, evaluator, familiarity with law, a little of the diagnostician, practitioner of professional judgment are required and impact the outcome of our our work. Of pharmacy as a back-up degree, I think that those that were first biologists, nurses or teachers are more likely to ‘get it’. Others that go onto dental, or medical, or optometry don’t always ‘get it’. We have ideals. We start out with a mission. But, it doesn’t take too long in our pharmacy careers before we realize that our best practices are sometimes not realizable, and compromises may have to be made. We are the ones trained to deal with compromises may have to be made. The public expects that we as a profession will be the ones to collectively define our work. Even within different aspects of practice e.g. pharmacy school professors, nuclear pharmacy, NIH research, etc. not all pharmacists are aware of what the field entails.

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