Bright lights at center stage

Today's perspective

Pharmacists are not accustomed to being in the spotlight. Flying under the radar, blending into the background, being what one pharmacy association–produced video termed “the invisible ingredient”—many metaphors can describe the pharmacist’s lack of visibility in the national media and even in some practice settings.

Two recent events have changed that situation, and the reality is that pharmacy and pharmacists are now at center stage. Last fall’s outbreak of fungal meningitis associated with administration of contaminated products from a compounding pharmacy has reached record proportions; at press time, 50 people had died and 722 patients in 20 states had been afflicted by meningitis, paraspinal infections, stroke, or peripheral joint infections. This story continues, as identification of paraspinal complications could go on indefinitely. In addition, public and professional media will be covering pharmacy inspections and scrutinizing positive or questionable pharmacy practices.

Pharmacy’s recent decision to pursue “provider status” has also focused attention on the profession. As described by Senior Assistant Editor Diana Yap in an article beginning on page 76, a March 1 summit held in Los Angeles in conjunction with Twlug2013 attracted nearly 200 leaders in pharmacy and to begin development of an action plan for incorporating pharmacists into public and private care delivery models including accountable care organizations, medical homes, and other emerging practice venues.

As Twlug members traveled home, a Wall Street Journal reporter was making s for an article published in the newspaper’s March 16 weekend edition. “10 Things Drugstores Won’t Tell You” featured lots of statistics and several interviews. Points such as pharmacies being a “magnet for drug dealers” made pharmacists feel uncomfortable in a way that showed the writer had hit a sore spot for the profession. Overall, though, the author shaded a lot of points or was downright incorrect. In the clinics in chain pharmacies, it’s nurse practitioners who give physicals for sports, not pharmacists, and despite whatever the Bureau of Labor Statistics means by “annualized weekly earnings,” I don’t believe that physicians and surgeons averaged $98,124 in 2012, or that pharmacists were $500 behind that (both figures seem too low).

Even though pharmacists used social media and blogs to blast this article among themselves, only two comments were posted to the WSJ website for the public to see. “A well-researched ‘10 Things Drugstores Do for Patients Every Day’ would better serve patients instead of snappy headlines and unsubstantiated assumptions,” wrote the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. The only pharmacist quoted directly in the article, Erin Albert, MBA, PharmD, JD, of Butler University in Indianapolis, also responded, “I respectfully disagree with some of it, and understand how it could also be misinterpreted.”

On her blog, Albert added some solid advice for pharmacists as we learn how to deal with the bright lights we find shining upon us: “Agree or disagree, do yourself a favor if you’re a pharmacist reading this, especially if you’re angry about [the WSJ article]: write someone. Write about the truth in your blog. Write about how you feel in a letter to your Congressional reps. Talk to an actual reporter about what it is that you do. Write to anyone who will listen to set the record straight. WRITE SOMETHING TO SOMEONE. Otherwise—you’re just going to keep on waiting for someone else to write your story (if it is written at all)—and it may not turn out the way you want it.”

Enjoy your April Today!