6 Memorable Television Pharmacists, Part 2
This is the second part of a series on how pharmacy professionals have been depicted on TV, both in a positive and negative manner.
This article is the second part of a series on memorable pharmacists in television history. For part 1, click here.
Pharmacists are generally considered some of the most trusted and highly regarded professionals. In a 2016 Gallup poll, pharmacists were ranked the No. 2 most trusted professionals by American respondents, just below nurses, with 67% rating the honesty and ethical standards of pharmacists “high” or “very high."
Despite this, pharmacists are often portrayed in movies and television in a negative light. In 2015, researchers conducted a study to determine whether pharmacist characters were depicted in a positive, negative, or neutral manner in films and TV shows available in the United States between 1970 and 2013. Their data found that of the 231 pharmacist portrayals identified, 145 (63%) were negative, 56 (24%) were neutral, and 30 (13%) were positive. Additionally, very few pharmacist characters were recurring ones on TV.
Here is a look at six more of the most memorable TV characters who are pharmacists:
7. Marco on House
This award-winning television medical drama aired on Fox from 2004 to 2012. The series followed Dr. Gregory House, a cynical and misanthropic medical genius who leads a team of diagnosticians on treating rare and unusual cases. Throughout the series, he struggles with his addiction to Vicodin following an injury to his right leg.
Marco, the hospital pharmacist, makes an appearance in 5 episodes of House. He first appears in season 1, episode 3, when House approaches the pharmacy, asking Marco for 36 Vicodin tablets for himself. Marco says that he cannot self-prescribe Vicodin, so House instead gets Wilson, a friend who is also a hospital doctor, to order it for him. Later that season, House becomes irritated with Marco when a Vicodin shipment gets temporarily sent to the wrong location and he cannot get his medication.
Marco makes another memorable appearance in season 3, episode 10. By that time in the series, House is cut off from Vicodin, because of an investigation into forged prescriptions. House successfully tricks Marco into giving him an oxycodone prescription for a cancer patient who had already died. Predictably, House then takes the pills himself.
House: "Picking up a script for Zebalusky."
Marco: "This is Dr. Wilson's patient."
House: "Yeah, Wilson's busy right now, what with Mr. Zebalusky dying in agony on account of his metastatic lung cancer and not having the pills to relieve that agony because of some moron pharmacist."
8. Andy Baker on 13 Reasons Why
In 2017, this Netflix-original drama took the nation by storm. The series revolves around high school student Clay Jensen, after his friend Hannah Baker commits suicides and releases a box of cassette tapes detailing the reasons that she ended her life and naming the people who she held responsible.
Andy Baker, Hannah’s father, is a pharmacist who appears in 10 of the 13 episodes. The family initially moves to the town of Crestmont, where the series takes places, so he can open an independent pharmacy. Throughout the series, Andy struggles with his business as a Wal-plex superstore opens, nearby taking many of his customers. After Hannah dies, business continues to struggle, with Andy’s wife suggesting that people are avoiding the pharmacy because they do not know how to act around them.
Although Hannah’s death was the result of many factors, her parent’s immense preoccupation with the family pharmacy and a lack of involvement in her life appears to have contributed.
9. Jerry Seinfeld on Seinfeld
This is not an example of an actual pharmacist moment in television per se, but it was too funny to leave off the list. In season 6, episode 22, Elaine’s boss, Mr. Pitt, goes to the pharmacy and mistakes Jerry for a pharmacist, because he is re-stocking a display that Kramer knocked over.
Mr. Pitt asks Jerry what he would recommend for a runny nose that he can take with his heart medication. Jerry recommends an antihistamine and because of a miscommunication tells him he can safely take it with his heart medication. Mr. Pitt then asks about appetite suppressants, so Jerry pulls a bottle off a nearby shelf.
Mr. Pitt subsequently becomes very sick and nearly dies, because of an apparent drug interaction between his heart medication and the new ones he picked up at the pharmacy. He starts to suspect that Elaine is trying to kill him after seeing Jerry on the news and recognizing him as the “pharmacist" who gave him the medications.
It is a great episode of one of the best sitcoms of all time. The episode does not mention any specific drug names. However, perhaps if Mr. Pitt was given a pseudoephedrine-containing product, which were not required to be sold behind the counter in the 1990s, it is possible that it could have been an issue if he also had severe hypertension or coronary artery disease
10. Candice on The Simpsons
Season 27, episode 1, of the longest-running American animated program features a pharmacist named Candice who works at Oedipus Rx pharmacy. In the episode, Homer develops narcolepsy, which he uses as an excuse to neglect his normal responsibilities at home. Marge convinces Homer to fill a prescription for narcolepsy that his doctor wrote for him. However, Homer leaves the pharmacy without the medication, after being frustrated by waiting in a line filled with elderly patients.
Following the recommendation of a therapist, he and Marge have a trial separation and start to spend time apart. Back at the pharmacy, Homer successfully picks up a combination of prescriptions, including amphetamines, anticataplectics, and GHB. Candice convinces him to go on a date. She drugs Homer, and they wake up in bed together the next morning. The pair continues to date, until Candace reveals to him that she is pregnant.
Homer: "Any idea when you'll get to me?"
Candice: "Well, there's 4 old people ahead of you, so how's Thursday at 1?"
11. Pharmacist on Psych
This American detective comedy television series aired from 2006 to 2014. In season 1, episode 9, Henry’s old boss, Captain Brett Connors, comes to the Psych Agency with his daughter looking for help about a crime he thinks he solved. Connors can no longer remember any of the details, however, as he is suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s disease.
The episode revolves around Gus and Shawn, the show’s 2 main characters, trying to piece together Connor’s memories by retracing his steps to uncover clues and ultimately find the victim and killer. They find a biotin prescription for a man named Mike who had gone missing and they thought was possibly the victim in Connor’s crime. Gus says that a biotin deficiency is hereditary, so they start visiting nearby pharmacies to see if a man named Mort, who they think is secretly Mike’s father, also has a biotin prescription on file.
Gus asks to pick up a prescription for Mort at a pharmacy. However, the pharmacist replies that there are no prescriptions ready to be picked up. Shawn manipulates the naïve and timid pharmacist in getting the information that they need and confirming Mort did have a prescription on file for biotin.
12. Pharmacist on That '70s Show
In season 1, episode 17, called “The Pill,” Jackie, played by Mila Kunis, tells Eric that she thinks she is pregnant, who in turn tells his girlfriend Donna.
Later in the episode, he goes to the local pharmacy to pick up photos where he runs into Donna’s father, Bob, who is picking up a prescription for cough medicine. Bob questions the high price of his prescription, so the pharmacist opens the bag and reads out loud “Donna Pinciotti, Ortho Novum.” After a moment of confusion, the pharmacist explains that Ortho Novum is a type of birth control. Predictably, Eric and Bob share a look of shock and confusion.
This leads to a hilarious sit-down conversation between Eric and his parents over birth control, cleanliness, safe sex, and the importance of foreplay.
Arguably, the pharmacist was not acting in a professional manner by telling Donna’s father that his daughter had a prescription for birth control. If the situation were to occur to today, it could be considered a privacy issue, as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was passed in 1996.
Donna Pinciotti: "Jackie, I went on the pill."
Jackie Burkhardt: "Oh, my God. You are gonna be so popular!"
What TV pharmacists are missing from the list? Tweet them to me at @toshea125.
1. Yanicak A, Mohorn PL, Monterroyo P, Furgiuele G, Waddington L, Bookstaver PB. Public perception of pharmacists: film and television portrayals from 1970 to 2013. J Am Pharm Assoc (2003). 2015;55(6):578-86. doi: 10.1331/JAPhA.2015.15028.
2. The Internet Movie Database. imdb.com. Accessed December 26, 2017.