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Saturday, September 26, 2009

When did a pharmacy become a part of the fast-food nation? You walk into a pharmacy with your prescription in hand, present it to the technician or pharmacist, and start to walk away, confident that in a few minutes you will have your medicine and begin your life anew.

When did that happen? I started in this business in 1983. At that time I remember this same expectation of quick, efficient dispensing, though I also remember that a busy pharmacy back then did about 100 prescriptions a day. We were still typing labels, though a few envelope-stretching chains and independents did have computers. So if we did ten Rx's an hour that was a busy. That works out to be one Rx every 6 minutes. Nowadays we do one Rx every minute or two. (That doesn't mean you get your prescription in two minutes; it's more likely to be an hour as the volume has sky-rocketed.)

But back in the Jurassic period of pharmacy, independents used to fill prescriptions in a back room, beyond the view of customers (we used to call them patients). This actually has a lot to say for it, as privacy worries are supposedly at the forefront of everyone's concerns. These were the days when a lot of compounding happened, capsules and tablets as well as creams, ointments, suspensions, elixirs, suppositories, would be made in a lab. Labels would be typed. It took a long time to make a prescription. I doubt if anyone left off a script and just stood there tapping their fingers.

Yet now I have to listen to the constant complaint: "How long's this gonna take?" "Forty-five minutes? All you have to do is put pills in a bottle!"

It's just like going into McDonalds or Burger King, isn't it? Place your order and take two steps to your right, wait a few minutes while some technician pours pills into a bottle, and hand over your credit card. Would you like to super-size that? How about a nice stool-softener with your morphine—we have a special today!

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