(David) Snow Storm

Comments from Medco's CEO show that there is a disconnect between the perception of retail pharmacy and what is actually involved in community pharmacy work.

It seems like Medco’s CEO David Snow should change his name to David Avalanche. His recent comments at a health conference about community pharmacy have already resulted in an avalanche of criticism. And I’m afraid this is just the beginning! Or should I say I hope this is just the beginning?

To fill you in on what I am talking about, simply read this Pharmacy Times article. And if you need further validation of the negative energy coming from David Snow, read this blog post at PharmExec.com. To summarize Snow’s remarks at a health conference, I can only tell you he thinks pharmacists are a sham with no real value and we have no direct patient interaction in the community pharmacy setting. And that is just the start of it all!

I don’t want to make a mountain out of a molehill or in this case an avalanche out of a snow ball, but these comments are exactly why community pharmacy is on the verge of extinction. We have people outside our ranks not only telling the world what we do (inaccurately) but also spreading ideas that retail pharmacists have no part in our healthcare system. Snow at one point described how robots and automation are “23 times more accurate” than a real human pharmacist. It is as if we are a detriment to the system instead of the patient advocates that are the last line of defense against drug misadventures.

Snow told the conference that “I’m not dissing retail [pharmacy], but there’s a fiction that a pharmacist comes out and dialogues with you,” according to Pharmacy Times. Snow went on to add that “In reality, a high school student hands you a script from the shelf,” which of course implies that pharmacists are nowhere to be found in the process of picking up a prescription from your local drugstore. Not exactly an accurate statement now is it?

There is a complete disconnect between the perception of retail pharmacy from those outside the field and what is actually involved in community pharmacy work. And we as healthcare professionals have not only allowed this disconnect to occur, but usually ,we aren’t even willing to try and correct any misinformation that is released such as these David Snow comments. It is a shame too, because his remarks are so off base even a 1st year pharmacy student could pick them apart and easily explain just how wrong Mr. Snow really is on this matter. I don’t know whether to be mad at him or at the profession that allows comments like that to go unanswered? For me, it is a little of both!

Part of me wonders if this is actually a publicity stunt. Surely David Snow doesn’t believe what he’s discussed at this health conference, does he? Maybe he is trying to divert attention away from one of the worst potential mergers in United States history? A merger that happens to involve the very company of which he is CEO. Sure, that sounds like a crazy conspiracy theory, but in my mind even that is better than believing that a CEO of a major healthcare-related company could think that poorly of retail pharmacy! The alternative means he actually believes what he’s said!

If there was ever a wake up call for what our futures will be like as the pharmacy benefit management (PBM) industry gains more control over retail pharmacy, I don’t know what it could be. Clearly the agenda for the newly formed Medco/Express Scripts combined entity will be to further eliminate retail pharmacy from the healthcare equation. The objectives of these companies are clear: retail pharmacists are a waste of resources and we should all be phased out in lieu of technology. No more errors and increased efficiency can be achieved if we just eliminate the human element of providing healthcare. Ah, it sounds so simple.

Well, I’ve got news for David Snow and anyone else that thinks the same way. Retail pharmacists actually provide valuable services to patients. Pharmacy technicians are trained professionals that provide valuable assistance to licensed pharmacists. And if you think that some robot in a mail order warehouse can simply replace us, you are sorely mistaken. Not only that, if you think we are going to take your misinformed and inaccurate remarks lying down then think again!

Pharmacists counsel patients often by law. We compound needed medications that aren’t commercially available. We help patients in ways that can’t be measured by whatever flowchart you must be reading. Put down the analysis and the false assumptions and walk into your local community pharmacy. You will get a quick education on what we really do and just how difficult it can be. And please Mr. Snow, think before you speak again. Because in the end, statements like those you made at that conference only embarrass yourself!

If anyone else thinks that Mr. David Snow crossed the line with his recent remarks regarding community pharmacy, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts. We all need to let him know we aren’t pleased with being marginalized by an uninformed outsider. I’m not going to stand by and watch someone who has never filled a prescription put down my chosen line of work. It isn’t going to happen. I have too much pride to sit by and do or say nothing. How about you?