Larry Merlo, RPh, CEO of CVS. Notice that it doesn’t say College of Pharmacy behind him. A business school. I absolutely have no respect for the non-pharmacist bean-counting numbers crunching MBA Masters of the Universe that have ruined the business of pharmacy. We need to send them to the variety store where they belong. Get their asses out of the pharmacy.
I receive messages from pharmacists, almost daily. They talk about their life at work. Too often they are about CVS, “Big Evil”. Here is another one. I also get plenty of questions from pharmacists asking, ”Why don’t you ever talk about Walgreens. There are the biggest chain. I heard that they are horrible. I would never work for Walgreens.” They reason I do not pass on incriminating accusations about Walgreens is because there aren’t any. I get very few e-mails complaining about Walgreens. The ratio CVS:Walgreens is about 100:1. A couple months ago, a Walgreens pharmacist and shareholder wrote a public letter to Greg Wasson, RPh, the CEO of Walgreens. She lambasted him. She called for his resignation. You can scroll down and find it. This pharmacist was righteously pissed off. The Ratio CVS:Rite-Aid is about 20:1. The RAD share price, as I write this, is $1.16. How much can I write about “Big Stupid”. The RAD CEO is a grocer. If Rite-Aid pharmacists want to give me a fresh view, I’ll put it up. I’d like to know how the non-pharmacist, non-tech “Wellness Ambassadors” in white coats have worked out. Yes, the same program that caused the United States Senate to hold a hearing to ask RAD executives, “How do you let customers know that this ill-trained ambassador is not a pharmacist?” What a frikkin’ embarrassment to our profession. CVS cheats and Rite-Aid stumbles along, one missed payroll or one missed Cardinal payment to lights out.
A Day in the Life at CVS
I am back from the darkest hours of my professional career! Earlier this year, I was forced to sell to CVS as managed healthcare hit the state of Texas. Before this point, I had been and independent Pharmacist all my career and had been working for independents since I was 15 years of age; I am currently 38 years old and graduated in 1997 from Pharmacy School. Words can not describe how much I loved independent pharmacy and continue to do so. As the world turned, I found myself waking up to a surreal nightmare that had become a grim reality. I found myself working for our sworn enemy. In my personal thoughts, I found myself working for evil personafied and all that is corrupt. Instantly, it became a gargantuan conflict of morality interest and the weight of the world on my shoulders proved heavy. To work for CVS, or not? The terms of my stores’ acquisitions stated that I had to work for 6 weeks with CVS in order to make the patient transition a smooth and easy one. Yes, my patients suffered starting on day one, and voiced their opinion how horrible CVS treated them, and how much time they had to wait for their prescriptions. I felt that I had let them down. In sum, I felt, I let everbody down. I had a heavy heart daily. I became ashamed. Even all my former employees voiced their distraught feelings to me and how they were treated by corporate and CVS coworkers. They were given the worst hours, the worst duties, other techs barking at them and not taking time to welcome them, or train them. And that’s because the acquisition was a merger. Therefore my employees and myself had seniority above others. Corporate and CVS coworker morale equated to anger, anxiety, indifference, unfriendliness, and being inhuman….And this was the tone set on all their stores I worked, no matter where I went. In the meantime, I needed to provide a living for a wife and three kids. I quickly became unhappy and depressed suiting up every day to work under these horrible conditions. My base salary for a 40hr week was 147k ($71/hr), four week vacation, and full health and dental benefits. Even with this salary, I decided one day to resign. I concluded that CVS could not buy my profession but most importantly, my soul. I further concluded, not only are they a threat for the existence of the profession of pharmacy, they are a threat for the safety and the best interest of patients. It is the most cynical and unfair expectations any company can have on any employee and more so on our profession. Their primary concern is not the patient, but production and stealing clients through Caremark (Be wary when you ask for a transfer, If you are on hold too long, chances are, they are calling the patient to convince them to stay and sometimes offering $25 dollar gift certificates).
The bulk of the pharmacist duties entail production and technical work. The day starts off by working solo for the first 1 or 2 hours. Of course this is done to save on tech income and it totally leaves the pharmacist in last place of a relay race. You end up catching up at 10pm after your 14 hour shift. In result of this, you provide horrible service. You are behind all day, and are counting and pouring, on input, ringing up the window, ringing up the register up front,….Nevermind counseling patients and getting to know the community. Nevermind being accessible for questions and answers for the community. Nevermind establishing pharmacist/patient relationships in order to have a sense of trust. Nevermind doing drug regimen reviews and verifying the accuracy of the prescription. You are a glorified technician that is differentiated by only your salary. Techs are given the power to administrate the pharmacist through a work flow chart. The end result is poor quality assurance and quality controls. The pharmacist’s medical knowledge is not exploited and rarely used. Time and Time again I verified refills that where given out the second and third time that were verified incorrectly the first time by other pharmacists and thus being given as misfills. And nobody is accountable! I’m not saying I walk on water. We are all human and can have misfills and have had them, but their system is apt for misfills. To augment the situation, they do not encourage counselling. In fact, they discourage it. Since they have a monitoring system that turns red and directly posts the results with your district manager, it puts pressure on the pharmacist to fill, fill, fill, fill, and nevermind verify or talk to a patient. Forget about it!..You can not make time for that. You go on red and you surely get the manager calling you the next day. Again, Cynical! And some pharmacist re drop the rx if it is not filled on time according to CVS standards. They cheat the system because they are worried and concerned about their manager calling them the next day. CVS is a prescription mill company and not providers of pharmaceutical care or healthcare. They refill and fill everything. Who cares if it is a drug/drug drug/therapy duplication. Everything is filled on a schedule by it’s automatic refill system. Nevermind interventions on unecessary drugs or d/c’d drugs. Fill everything and call the patient. The trained call go as such, “Dear Mr. or Mrs. so and so, Im calling because I am concerned about your health. You havent picked up your med.” When can you come by, or when can I expect you?” Hypocrites! It’s only done because management breathes it on them to turn over rx’s! Not because they care! And nobody stands up to management in voicing the concern of the pharmacist for the best interest of the patient.
Yet, one of their mission statements reads, “We are the innovators of pharmacy.” ” We are here to reinvent pharmacy!” I’m appalled how pharmacist look the other way, not stand up for the profession nor the patient, and work for this company. It is inconceivable how Texas government awarded these crooks with a bid to service former Texas medicaid and hurt our hard earned bottom line to take it by spread pricing and give it to caremark, and CVS. Incredible! How does this occur in our countrly? How can kids out of pharmacy school not be forwarned about their practices. Shouldnt pharmacy schools have a moral and ethical responsabilty along with state board of pharmacist to expose these practices. Shame on you CVS!
Today I work for two independents and I am happy again. Although I earn less salary wise, and have no benefits, the trade off is priceless! I come home happy to my family and practice pharmacy everyday. I still long for the the days of my professional glory. I hope someday I can return as an owner and be successful once again. In the meantime, I vow to always look out for the best interest of our profession and more so for the patient.