The Drugmonkey settles in behind a very statesmanlike looking podium as the buzz among the crowd settles into a low whisper. A bald, clownish-looking man enters stage left while four tired and rumpled people slowly stager in from the other side. The four are offered a seat and they immediately burst out in tears of gratitude. They sheepishly ask if there are snacks or perhaps bottled water that will be provided during this event. Not one asks about restroom facilities, as if they have no expectation of nature calling. The low whisper in the auditorium drifts into silence as the Drugmonkey takes the microphone.
"Good evening, and thank you all for coming to tonight's event. As you all know, pharmacy faces tremendous challenges as we move forward into the 21st century, and views differ as to how the profession will best meet the obstacles before us. One thing is for sure, no matter what direction pharmacy ultimately takes, CVS/Caremark will play an integral part. With over 7000 stores and control of one of the nation's major Pharmacy Benefit Managers, some will already say that as CVS goes, so will go the profession. With that in mind, we present tonight's debate, "CVS, a progressive force for the future or an embarrassment to pharmacy?"
"First let me introduce Tom Menigan, CEO of The American Pharmacists Association."
"Thank you for the opportunity to be here Drugmonkey. I gotta say our new headquarters in Washington, D.C. is much nicer than this dump though."
"And now, four pharmacists currently employed by CVS"
"May we speak now?"
Let me jump in here and let you know that while this debate took place only in my imagination, every word attributed to APhA's CEO comes from this post on his blog, while the words from the CVS pharmacists come from actual messages I have received in my e-mail box.
"Mr. Menigan, would you like to make an opening statement?"
"Recently, Megan Sheahan, Michelle Fritts, Erika Trevino, Olivia Putman, and I visited a CVS Caremark pharmacy in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, DC, where I received my annual influenza vaccination. We had a chance to see their advances in patient care, including numerous systems upgrades to assist pharmacists in identifying, monitoring, assisting, and documenting patient care activities and outcomes."
"Interesting. I think what I'll do now, as opposed to the traditional role of debate moderator, is step back and just let the two sides engage in a little back and forth. CVS pharmacists, you're up next."
"This pharmacy keeps enacting brand new programs (more things to do). I refer to myself no longer as a pharmacist. I am now a prescription salesman. I do not counsel, I do not care about outcomes, All I am supposed to care about is getting another script filled."
"By improving patient engagement through enhanced interactions, pharmacists have created new ways to improve clinical care and provide counsel that can improve adherence. By using increased technology and maximizing the use of pharmacy technicians in the pharmacy, CVS pharmacists are improving the health of patients while lowering the overall cost of health care."
"I managed to stick out 4 years at CVS before the fateful night of January 2nd, the Monday after New Years and the busiest day of the year when I worked a 14 hour shift with one 10hr technician, filled 300 prescriptions, fell asleep driving home and ended up crashing my car into a median. As soon as I woke up, I gave my notice and went to a grocery store pharmacy, making the same money with much better hours and 10 times less stress."
"The CVS team of Papatya Tankut, Cherise Wilson, Scott Staso, and Rosaline (Rosy) El-Khoury showcased recent patient care initiatives the company has implemented to allow pharmacists greater opportunities to interact with patients and prescribers."
"This is not why I got into pharmacy, I am not a telemarketer, I am no salesman, but I am that person that will tell you, 'don't take tylenol while on that'. I would give anything just to be a pharmacist again."
"It’s clear to me that the organization is taking enhanced pharmacists’ services seriously."
"There are the traditional complaints about retail and then there are the extreme cases and CVS is one of those.... CVS takes the cake with pharmacist abuse."
"Let me just jump in here now, since the subject of pharmacist abuse has come up. Mr. Menigan, what do you have to say about published reports that CVS systemically ignores the will of the North Carolina Board of Pharmacy, which has mandated a 12 hour workday for pharmacists, by having pharmacists in North Carolina routinely work 14 hour days?"
Since APhA has never said a word about this flouting of a law it helped defend, you can insert 30 seconds of the sound of crickets chirping in the background here.
"Very well then. Well it seems that one thing is crystal clear tonight. The views of The American Pharmacists Association differ sharply from those of actual pharmacists. Mr. Menigan, you managed to get your message out even when outnumbered 4 to 1 by people in the profession you claim to represent. That's quite a feat, but to be honest, not at all unexpected. I see the corporate special interests that actually control pharmacy have come with their pocket now, which means it must be time for you to crawl back in. Thank you for being here, and thank you you to the CVS pharmacists who have to be back at work for a 14 hour day bright and early in the morning. Try not to drive into any highway medians on the way home!
And a special thanks to our audience here at the Medco auditorium and around the world on C-SPAN and online. Be sure and tune in next time when Walgreen's Chairman and CEO Greg Wasson will discuss the topic, "How tobacco sales can drive top line pharmacy revenues" Until then, goodnight, and be sure to meet that flu shot quota!!