Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Middle-Aged Pharmacist Conundrum

I read a comment in a forgotten pharmacy forum a while back in which a frightened young commenter said that she couldn't think of anything worse than to be a middle-aged pharmacist out there trying to find a job. She said that she would put up with anything in her present position in order to not lose her job and become one of "those" pharmacists.

That comment stuck with me. Not only because of the fear behind it, but because that middle-aged pharmacist, and that same scenario, could easily apply to me.

Now, I'd be lying if I said that there wasn't a little fear behind my decision to quit working in pharmacy, especially since I've been doing it so long and didn't have something else lined up beforehand. There's always that fear of the unknown.

But as time has passed, I've realized that my fear is really unfounded. There's no actual basis for it, it's only in my mind. There's nothing to be afraid of, I've planned and prepared for this time in my life. No matter what happens, I will survive. I've come to learn that fear is no justification for my actions.

So then, why would such a young commenter be so afraid of something 25-years into her future?

Working as a pharmacist, she would be generating a very comfortable income. If she lived below her means, avoided accumulating debt, saved a significant portion of her income and invested it wisely, upon reaching middle-aged she would be in such a safe financial position that fear shouldn't factor into her decision-making. Not being able to find a job at that age would be the least of her worries.

But on the other hand, I've worked with some older pharmacists who lived high on the hog their entire career, thinking that the gravy train would never come to an end. They hadn't prepared themselves for the worst case scenario, and now they're stuck working, not because they want to, but because they think that they have no other choice. Fear guides their actions.

If you haven't noticed, most of the pharmacist crimes that I've reported in my blog or on Twitter, were perpetrated by middle-aged pharmacists, people old enough to know better, but probably willing to do just about anything because they were desperate for money.

It seems to me that those pharmacists' fear of losing the lifestyle they grew accustomed to became greater than the fear of the consequences of crossing over that ethical line.

Perhaps it's one "those" middle-aged pharmacists that the young commenter is afraid of becoming?

But, on the other hand, perhaps "putting up with anything" out of fear could lead a young pharmacist into becoming one of those pharmacists upon reaching middle-age? Something to think about.

But, don't just take my word for it. Watch this hidden video of a middle-aged pharmacist interviewing for a position with a less-than-reputable independent pharmacy owner, and choosing to compromise his ethics during the fifth decade of his life in order to become employed.


  1. If you think about it, perception of fear controls everything we do.

  2. Need I say more?

    An indictment was unsealed today charging Arlene Gerson, 46, of Philadelphia, with abusing her position as a pharmacist to conspire with Jeffrey Handy, 33, of Norristown, Pennsylvania, in the illegal distribution of oxycodone, announced United States Attorney Zane David Memeger.

    Source: FBI: Former City Pharmacist Charged in Drug Conspiracy

  3. If you've read any of the FBI, DEA, or USDOJ or other Government news reports since I've written this blog post, then you've probably realized the inordinate amount of middle-aged healthcare professionals that have turned to the dark side in their pursuits of excessive greed. Heck, I've even come to expect most of the convicted white-collar criminals to be middle-aged.

    So, I was a little shocked today when I read this FBI news report of an ELDERLY doctor sentenced for massive Medicaid fraud. Medical Director for Miami-Based Health Care Clinic Sentenced to 144 Months in Prison for Role in $50 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme

  4. According to an FBI news release today, "Randy Binder, a pharmacist and the former proprietor of Texas Road Pharmacy in Manalapan, New Jersey, admitted today that he conspired to illegally distribute oxycodone to people without a legitimate need for the drug.."

    "Binder, 60, of Matawan, New Jersey, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Freda L. Wolfson in Trenton federal court to an information charging him with conspiracy to distribute oxycodone."

    Again, another middle-aged pharmacist. It seems to be a continuing theme. Liked I said before, an educated professional who's been alive long enough to know, and been in business long enough to know, about the consequences of embracing the dark side of pharmacy.

    And there's another common theme - many of them were working as independent pharmacists. Why so many independent pharmacists?

    I'm sure that excessive greed, hubris, and Will to Power probably played a part in some of those decisions. But I wonder how many of them committed their crimes because they couldn't compete with the chains, the PBMs, or survive with reduced insurance reimbursements anymore?

    Of course I'm not condoning their criminal behaviors, but I wonder how many of those pharmacists stepped over the line solely because they felt that it was the only way they could remain in business? Does anyone know?

  5. Does anyone remember the Fed's "Operation Dirty Lake" from about one-year ago, in which a large number of pharmacists were indicted and accused of operating a large scale oxycodone ring out of Southern California?

    Well, one of those accused pharmacists reportedly plead guilty recently to illegally distributing oxycodone without legitimate medical purpose. This article caught my eye and alerted me to this scheme.

    As such, I thought I would present this case in the comments field as a follow-up because it pretty much epitomizes my point with this post - except it wasn't just one individual pharmacist selling-out. It was a bunch of middle-aged independent pharmacists allegedly colluding to commit serious fraud and breaking the laws in order to enrich themselves at the expense of innocent others.

    So, when someone tells you that things like this never actually happen in real life, just point them in this direction, so that they can become better educated on how some people, especially older healthcare professionals who should know better, just can't seem to control their emotions of excessive fear and greed.

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