Mom and Her Coupons

I grew up in the 60’s in a town called Ben Lomond located in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  We had our small town pharmacy we would go to; however, I can remember that every now and again I would get in the car with Mom and we would drive the 13 mile trip down to Santa Cruz.  Once every couple weeks Mom would gather up all of the coupons she had cut out of the newspaper and she and I would travel from one side of Santa Cruz to the other picking up the specials from the different grocery stores.  Being that I was only 4 or 5 years old at the time, I vaguely remember this.  I have pictures in my mind of how the different grocery stores looked and what it felt like to ride around in the big Chevy Impala with my mom at the wheel.

My favorite stop was when we were at down town and were able to walk into the new Long’s Drug Store.  I remember this because at the front of the store there was a new vending machine that dispensed soda in a cup.  Mom would give me a dime that I would put in the machine, and then I would push the button for the soda that I wanted and then a tiny cup would drop into a slot and ice and soda would fill the cup.  It was not much more than a Dixie cup size; however, in all of my 49 years here on this planet I have never seen another machine like it.

To the best of my knowledge, Longs Drug Store was the first Chain Pharmacy Store here in Santa Cruz County.  Today, we have 15-20 Chain Pharmacy Stores including Safeway, Costco, Walgreens, CVS, Rite-Aid in addition to a handful of independent stores.   I tried to do a quick count in my head and quickly lost track.  Why so many pharmacies?  Well, they are needed to help fill the increasing number of prescriptions being prescribed.

Was it the increase in pharmacies that caused an increase in prescriptions?  Was it the increase in population?  Perhaps it was the advent of the five dollar insurance copay that made access to prescriptions so easy that led the way.  Maybe it was the ever increasing expectation that when we go to the doctor, we need to leave with a prescription for a medication or we feel the doctor has not done their job?  Regardless, that is not my point for today; however, it is a great discussion for another day.

My point is there are many, many pharmacies to choose from when getting your prescription filled.  All of these pharmacies are relatively busy and need to be staffed.  Some of these big stores are open for 14-24 hours a day and staffed by only the minimal amount of people.  Many of the pharmacists graduating pharmacy school these days owe more than 200 thousand dollars when they graduate pharmacy school.  These 24 and 25 year old pharmacists jump at the opportunity to make a decent wage at one of these chain pharmacy stores. 

The deal is, these new pharmacists are worked very hard and maybe don’t have the experience to stand up for what may be considered an inappropriate working condition from time to time.  My concern is, when working a 12 hour shift with little help and many distractions, what parameters are set in place to keep from preventing a miss-fill. 

Perhaps the pharmacist has filled two prescriptions during the day for meloxicam 7.5mg tablet.  They have this name in the back of their mind.  In a little while a prescription for moexepril 7.5mg tablet comes along.  They have already checked two prescriptions for meloxicam 7.5mg, they know what the tablet looks like and they are familiar with the NDC number verification already.  They are on the phone with a doctor, notice that two cars are at the drive up window waiting for service, the other phone line is ringing, and patients are waiting in line to be counseled.  They inadvertently verify the prescription with the wrong medication in the bottle. 

All pharmacists take special precaution to never miss-fill prescriptions; however, it happens.  I have said this before, when you look at your prescription, if the tablets look different than they did last time, call your pharmacist and ask them to double check the tablet identify for you.

Next time you go to your pharmacy, before you get in line, stand back and watch the workings of the pharmacy staff for 5-10 minutes.  Does it appear that there is enough staff for the workload?  Do the pharmacists appear stressed and hurried, or do they have time to do what is in front of them.  Is the staff at the counter friendly?  Do you see patients visiting with a pharmacist at the counseling area?

You are not required to go to the closest pharmacy when filling your prescription.  Take some time and “interview” a few pharmacies until you find one you feel comfortable with.  Your pharmacist needs to be approachable so you have the opportunity to get your questions answered.  If you have only used chain store pharmacies to fill your prescriptions, do yourself a favor and walk into one of the local independent pharmacy stores.  Ask to speak with the pharmacist and then ask them if there are any advantages of moving your prescriptions to their independent pharmacy.  You may appreciate what your hear.


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