Monday, January 30, 2012

60 Minutes: Stem Cell Charlatans

I can truly sympathize with those who've been diagnosed with terminal conditions and have been told there's nothing medical science can do to help. I think I can also understand the will to fight back and find a cure. It's normal to want to get a second, or even third, opinion from a different medical provider.

But please, don't fall prey to unscrupulous charlatans and quacks looking to line their own pockets from your unfortunate circumstances. Stick with licensed, reputable medical providers whom use approved, scientific, evidence-based medicine. Remember - there are no such things as Z-rays.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Neglected Infections Of Poverty

Neglected Infections of Poverty are parasitic, bacterial and viral infections that disproportionately affect impoverished people in the United States. According to the CDC, the NIPs are considered neglected because relatively little attention has been devoted to surveillance, prevention, and/or treatment of these infections.

I know that this video is a little dated, but since 2009 the poor in this country aren't any better off, and it does a great job of discussing the subject. In addition, many people are unaware that Kissing Bugs, a transmitter of Chagas disease, can also be found in southern Arizona.

Watch 'Neglected Infections' Resurface Among America's Poor on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Ya Tvoi Sluga, Ya Tvoi Rabotnik

I was lucky enough to sneak into a tour at one of our local PBMs on Friday, and happened to catch some of their pharmacists going on lunch break. So, I thought I would interview a few of them about their career choice and job satisfaction. It didn't take me long to confirm my suspicions.

I came away feeling that they weren't passionate about their work, and only had prescription volume on their minds. I also couldn't quite make out this one phrase they kept repeating. Any ideas?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Frozen Souls | A Short Film

According to the film's director -
We wrote this short to get in touch with the audience beyond the wall of personal beliefs about war. The challenge was to find a core ethical value shared by the widest audience possible.

We found these universal value in the principle that a modern soldier goes to war to protect civilians (of all nationalities!) at his own risk, for a personal ethical choice. The fact that in modern war this principle is disregarded (civilian death as "collateral damage", no count for civilian casualties vs paranoid count for military casualties, etc.) is a dangerous attack to "common sense".

Soldier Greene's story explores the meaning of the existential mission of a soldier, slowly unveiling the ethics of warfare, often expressed on media but in fact disregarded in the field.

Dedication, courage and altruism shown by an Afghan mother struggling to save her son's life, will reveal to Greene his own deepest motivation when he chose to be a soldier, until the extreme sacrifice of death.

We wrote about an American soldier in Afghanistan because he well represent the paradox of a war projected daily in our homes, but shown in a cool and distant fashion. A war where all good values are "here" and all horrible facts are "there", breaking the ethical chain which always should connect moral values and action.

Frozen Souls from Guido Freddi on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Have You Heard From Johannesburg

The film, Have You Heard From Johannesburg is a five-part chronicle, airing over three weeks on the PBS television program Independent Lens. It's a brief history of the global anti-apartheid movement that took on South Africa’s entrenched apartheid regime and its international supporters who considered South Africa an ally in the Cold War.

I cannot tell you how gripping and educational this film is. It's one the the best documentaries I've ever seen, and one that shows just how a group of average people banding together as one can impact change, not only on a small scale, but nationwide and worldwide. Make the time to tune into PBS: Independent Lens and learn something truly worthwhile.

Here's a clip from Episode Four: The Bottom Line, where international grassroots campaigns against Polaroid, Shell, Barclay’s, General Motors, and others doing business in South Africa economically isolate the apartheid regime and become the first successful efforts to use economic pressure to help bring down a government.

Watch The Bottom Line - A Preview on PBS. See more from Independent Lens.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Verbal Diarrhea

A few years ago, well maybe 6-7 years ago. Or was it about 8 years ago? No, no, it was about 5 years ago, maybe 5 & 1/2 years ago. Let's just say it was somewhere between 4 or 5 years ago, I used to work the night-shift for a chain pharmacy located in Tucson. If you haven't worked the night-shift in a chain pharmacy before, especially a pharmacy located in a bad neighborhood (like Tucson), then you won't know that, except for doing a vast amount of refills, most of your night is spent either dealing with drug abusers, shoplifters, or crazy people who can't sleep.

Well, after working this one particular pharmacy for a little while and becoming more known in the community, people started calling me in the middle of the night, just to chit-chat - like I had nothing better to do. Almost every single night, this one older woman used to call me out of concern for her sister's bowel habits. It was like clockwork - the same time every single night that I worked just so she could describe to me the color, frequency, consistency, and smell of her sister's turds to me and to ask what she should do about it. That's right, TURDS.

Now, contrary to what you may think of me, I actually like people. It's just that I'm not much of a chit-chatter. If you've got something important to say, I'm listening. Heck, I sometimes may even be interested. But, when the conversation starts to drone on, gets too boring and filled with inane bullshit, my tolerance level tends to drop drastically and I'm looking to part ways in a hurry.

Of course, it didn't take long to realize there wasn't anything seriously wrong with her sister. This lady liked me, was lonely, couldn't sleep and just wanted to talk. But, I had lots of work to finish, didn't have the time to chit-chat, and truly - just didn't want to listen to her verbal diarrhea. I swear, if I didn't try to interrupt her, she would continue talking for hours. Unfortunately, there were no verbal clues, no body language, no excuses, nothing I could say or do to convince her not to keep calling me.

It even got to the point where I would put her on hold whenever she called, hoping that she would get the message and hang up. But, she would continue to hold forever! It got so bad that I eventually had to bluntly tell her that I didn't want to talk about the subject again, and not to call me anymore.

But, do you think that would stop her? HELL NO! If I refused her calls, she would get in the car with her sister and pull up to the drive-through window at 3AM just to describe her sister's stool, and still want to chit-chat.. through the drive-through window! There was nothing I could do to get rid of this crazy woman. It drove me fucking nuts! Eventually, and for other reasons too, I transferred from that pharmacy to another one located in Phoenix.

No wait.. it was 10 years ago. Or was it 9? No, more like somewhere between 9-10 years ago.

So, when I tell you that I can identify with George Carlin on so many levels, I'm not lying.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Teenage Mothers: Not Just Nine Months Of Trouble

I was just reading the January 20th edition of the MMWR and was astounded to find, even with all of the easy access to safe-sex information and ways to prevent teenage pregnancies available to our youth, that approximately 400,000 teens aged 15–19 years give birth every year in the United States.

Data from the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System collected in nineteen states during 2004–2008 indicated that among teens aged 15–19 years who became pregnant unintentionally and gave birth to a live infant, 50.1% reported doing nothing to prevent pregnancy.

Of these pregnant teens, 31.4% thought they could not get pregnant at the time, 23.6% did not use contraception because their partner did not want to use it, and 22.1% did not mind getting pregnant. In the five states that asked about prepregnancy contraceptive methods, only 21.0% of these teens used a highly effective method of birth control, and 24.2% used the moderately effective method of condoms. These data offer insights about teens who give birth and face the risks of early childbearing, a critically important subset of all teens who have had sexual intercourse.

What's more shocking is that these numbers continues to climb, and the United States now leads the developed world in unintended teenage pregnancies. And this is dated information over four years old that also doesn't include teens under fifteen years of age, or teens from ALL states! Who knows what the numbers could be now? If teens from Arizona and the other border states were included in the data, I'd bet the numbers would be even higher. Just personally, I've seen dozens of 12-14 year old girls admitted to the hospital for childbirth. How tragic is that?

Here's an earlier press release addressing the problem -

Friday, January 20, 2012

Surgeon General Changes Position On Smoking

Here's some late-breaking news from the Office of the Surgeon General reversing it's stance on smoking being fully dangerous for one's health.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Full Circle | A Short Film

People wonder why pharmacists are always on guard when dealing the public. It's not easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys. While many experienced pharmacists do have a keen ability for picking out the scammers, the abusers, and for liespotting - just like medicine, it's not always 100% effective.

Full Circle - A Short Film from Matthew Fredrick on Vimeo.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

How Much Are You Willing To Take?

I was just reading my Twitter friend, @TiredRPh's, tweets about having to fill an inordinate amount of prescriptions in a short period of time with recently reduced pharmacist and tech hours, and it makes me wonder just how far pharmacists can be pushed before they will finally reach their breaking point?

I know pharmacists say they NEED their jobs and are willing to submit to the increasing ridiculous demands of their employers, but have far do you have to be pushed before you'll finally say "NO"?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Walgreens | Express Scripts Debacle

Remember years ago when these same type of "third-party" reimbursement issues were in the news, except that it was the independent pharmacists mainly complaining about it?

At that time, the chains didn't make such a fuss about lower reimbursement rates because they had economies of scale and saw those lower reimbursements as a way to reduce competition from independent pharmacies. They knew that it was only a matter of time before independents couldn't afford to remain in business with someone else dictating their pricing, so they opened their doors to these third-parties.

Now it seems that strategy has paid-off for the chains, and independent pharmacists are becoming extinct. But, the PBMs and other third-parties are still dictating reimbursement rates, and guess who's next on their list. That's right, the chains. Now that chain pharmacists have opened those doors and helped remove their independent colleagues from the picture, the chains are left competing amongst themselves to see who will get paid the least.

I wonder how will all of this affect individual chain pharmacists?

Let's take a look into my crystal ball and see what's possibly in store for us in the future - Just like their independent predecessors, the chains will be forced to accept lower reimbursement rates, consolidate even more, or eventually go out of business.

As recent history has shown, more and more responsibilities will be shifted onto lower-paid pharmacy technicians. As history has also shown, BOPs and legislators will submit to their corporate masters and change the rules to allow technicians to do what were previously "pharmacist-only" duties. Technicians will come to rule the roost.

Chain pharmacists positions and hours will be cut, and they will be expected to do much more work, and for increasingly lower pay. Because there will be less reimbursable responsibilities left for pharmacists now that technicians are doing their job, pharmacists will be moved out of the pharmacy and be expected to accept roles previously attributed to nurses and doctors. Of course, this will require more education and skills on behalf of the pharmacist, who will be expected to spend the extra time and money for school in order to become certified to provide those services.

But, now that the chains have expanded into "hands-on" healthcare services by creating their own clinics, those pharmacists will be competing with those clinic nurse-practitioners for providing services which cannot be reimbursed. Who do you think is going to win that competition?

Luckily, we pharmacists stick together and belong to one powerful single association that speaks on behalf of all pharmacists, and protects us from those greedy third-party corporate executives, right? Oh yeah, wait a minute. Damn, talk about a lack of foresight and karma, huh?

So, I wonder how will those PBM/third-party middlemen might be affected by all of this?

For some reason, the phrase "laughing all the way to the bank" keeps popping into my head. It looks as though they are in the driver's seat. They can blame the chains for any increased costs, and then shift those costs onto their clients without recourse. With chain pharmacy competition out of the way, they can create and expand their own pharmacies, and fully dictate to their patients when and where they will get their prescriptions filled, and for how much. Pretty cool for them, huh?

I'm betting that some pharmacists long ago wished they never answered that doorbell.

Source: Phoenix ABC News Channel-15

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Which Car Do Pharmacists Drive To Work?

If you work in retail pharmacy, and unless someone like me tells you, only experience will teach you that it's important not to drive your best car to work. I learned the hard way.

Right after graduating pharmacy school, I was hired as a grocery-chain pharmacist. So, like most new grads do, I went out and bought a brand new car - which I drove to work. It couldn't have been just a few days at work or so when someone intentionally rammed a shopping cart into the side of my car. After all of these years I still have that car, and I think about that dent every time I drive it.

In the ensuing years since that first incident, I've had my (other) car broken into twice, had my stereo system stolen twice, had people key my car on three or four occasions, incurred numerous dings and dents, and even had food and drinks thrown at my car. I'm pretty sure that if my car could talk he'd have some real good stories to tell.

So, if you're a new pharmacist, just starting to work for the chains and ready to go out and buy that shiny brand new sports cars that you've had your eye on since your first year in school, learn from my mistakes. Buy an old used car first, just for driving to and from work.

Either that, or learn to drive like this Fry's Food & Drugs pharmacist coming into work everyday.

MINI "Demon Carts" from AnneKatherine (Kat) Friis on Vimeo.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Listen To Your Pharmacist

What we have to say is usually very insightful. Oh yeah, and make sure to lock up your drugs too.

The Pharmacist from Jeffrey Da Silva on Vimeo.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Man Rape

Men can now be victims of rape in eye of the law. In a landmark decision that advocates say has been long overdue, the FBI has changed its definition of rape to include males. That's right, believe it or not, before this recent decision, there was no legal definition for one man raping another man.

According to a New York Daily News report, Attorney General Eric Holder said that the new definition of rape will lead to a clearer picture of sexual assault in America and rectify what advocates believe are woefully underreported statistics. I guess that's a good thing in some ways.

I think this might be video of him addressing the problem with his colleagues beforehand.

Source: Laugh Factory

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Pharmacy Chain Gang

When I first graduated pharmacy school I went for work for one of the chain gangs. I'm pretty sure that most pharmacists will agree, that once you work for the chains for any length of time, it's almost impossible to ever escape. I was lucky to escape and become a hospital pharmacist. Doing time in a hospital pharmacy is much more tolerable (for now).

But, it wasn't easy, the chains are always looking to get you back. And if you do ever manage to escape, the memories of your treatment while working for a chain gang always haunts you. As a matter of fact, that's why many experienced pharmacists remain floaters or work only part-time.

For the skeptical, here's a trailer of my personal life during my early years in the profession -

and here's a trailer of my personal life now -

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Your Drugs Are My Love

Have you ever wondered why some women wouldn't give you the time of day before you became a pharmacist, but now you catch them flirting with you all of the time? What do you think happened in just a few years to make you so irresistible? Do you think that "all of a sudden" you're now attractive because of the content of your character, or is it because you've got something else they want?
U.S. Congressman, Peter King--whose district includes Seaford and Massapequa--told PIX 11 that Nassau police have noticed an upsurge in burglaries among upper-middle class teen girls, trying to get money to feed their pill addictions.
If you let your little head do the thinking for you, you're risking a lifetime of achievement for just a few minutes of pleasure. Believe me, I've personally witnessed such poor judgment on more than a few occasions, and seen pharmacists pay dearly for it. But, don't just take my word for it -

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Art Of Communication

I've worked in many different community pharmacies throughout my career, in many different cities, and in many different types of neighborhoods - especially more than a few ethnic neighborhoods. Personally, I prefer the ethnic neighborhoods because I like diversity and I find the customers much easier to work with compared to the demanding upper-crust customers. As a matter of fact, I even choose to live in an ethnic neighborhood.

But, with such diversity sometimes comes problems with communication. Some of my neighbors have limited understanding of the English language or have such thick accents that's it's often hard to understand what little English they can speak. However, all it takes to prevent misunderstandings and to get along is a little patience and the simple acts of open communication and active listening.

I think this video best describes what I mean about active listening.