Corporate Pharmacy Distracts Opioid Dispensing

When quality of wallet takes precedence over quality of life, the healing arts suffer for it.

It all went to the dogs on the first day that a physician and chemist accepted profit for their services. When quality of wallet took precedence over quality of life, the healing arts suffered for it.

Today, corporations own huge chunks of the health care system. Hospitals, pharmacies, and third-party insurance companies abound with corporate logos and a singular focus: more profit.

In corporate pharmacy, it’s all about how many prescriptions a pharmacist can fill with as little help as possible. When a pharmacist is distracted by other jobs aside from drug utilization review and quality control and assurance, patient care is compromised. It takes a individual with extreme concentration skills, a great staff, and a touch of obsessive compulsive disorder to do 450 prescriptions a day while squeezing in 20 flu shots without making a grievous error.

There are 2 kinds of pharmacies: the quick and the dead. If you are not running at full throttle from open to close—squeezing as much profit as you can into that day—then you are doing it wrong and will probably get yourself a conference call. The pressure to fill every legitimate prescription in corporate pharmacy is what keeps the oxycodone addicts coming back. If I had my own pharmacy, I swear that I would not stock narcotics and amphetamines. While there are patients who absolutely require the medication for legitimate purposes, there is a certain portion of the clientele that absolutely do not.

Considering the profession, pharmacists have a part in the rate of opioid addiction, but they do not play as big of a role as certain physicians. In medicine, there are bigger candy men than Willy Wonka. For just a few minutes of work, they make $150 cash and give patients ridiculous doses of pharmaceutical joy that keep them coming back every month. If you get hooked on those drugs, they have a maintenance narcotic license to keep you on buprenorphine/naloxone sublingual products for eternity.

Narcotic prescribing and dispensing is an egregious mess and, as I said in my last column, reclassifying hydrocodone won’t change things. A colleague of mine noted that if access to hydrocodone is restricted and the drug becomes more expensive than legitimate therapies, then the reclassification could actually make heroin abuse more prevalent.

Health care is a hot mess, and I don’t see it getting better anytime soon. We made our bed, and now we have to sleep in it. If we are going to keep score with the quantity of services, then we need to increase their quality. It might cut into the profit structure somewhat, but it needs to be done. Lives depend on it.

Jay Sochoka, RPh, is stripping the bed.