Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Pharmacy Tale: The Walgreen's and CVS Kiada

There has been this faith for some time in the Western world that the stuff of the Western world, our mass capitalist economic bureaucracies, our mass nationalist political bureaucracies, our mass "superior" cultural forms, our mass science and technology (she blinded me), and our economic and political zeal to bring our kind of economics, politics, and culture to the rest of the world, would bring order, stability, liberty, freedom, peace, prosperity and happiness (this almost sounds like a Vulcan greeting) to everyone around the world. The corporate capitalists who brought "order" to the "chaos" of Gilded Age America through rationality and science argued that they were making the world a better place. They certainly made the world a better place for them thanks to the monopolies and cartels they created through horizontal and vertical integration which allowed them to make millions thanks to economies of scale. The Progressives who brought "order" to the political "chaos" of America after 1900 thought they were making the world a better place. They certainly made the world a more profitable place, broadly defined, for them and their corporate capitalist allies. For captains of industry and Progressive politicians corporate worlds were and still are the best of all possible worlds.

But has the "order" corporate types brought to our increasingly global political, economic, and cultural worlds created the best of all possible worlds? I want to address that question through a story that really happened to me.

Recently, well since November, I have had sinus and throat problems. Just when it seemed I was getting better, less throat pain, less stuffiness, things seemed to get worse again. In April my sinus problems began to affect an asthma I have had since I was twelve. This asthma has, at various times in my life, incapacitated and hospitalised me on a number of occasions. Since the invention of Advair and Singulair, however, my asthma has been largely controlled. Only when I get bronchial or sinus problems is there a danger that my asthma may be so severe that I have to return to the hospital. This is what happened in April. In response I was given a fourth and fifth dose of antibiotics and a dose of prednisone by my doctor to stop this from happening.

All of this is a long introduction to what I want to talk about: the trials and tribulations of getting prescriptions filled in an age of supposedly efficient and effective rational bureaucracies. I have been getting my prescriptions filled at a Walgreen's near my home for the last several years. It has proven to be a difficult odyssey for a number of reasons. First, I get my medications in three month doses and it is not easy to coordinate my prescriptions medications for asthma (Advair, Singulair) and the osteoporosis I developed because of steroids I have used (cortisone, prednisone, Advair) for my asthma since I was twelve. Invariably, Walgreen's sends me refill notices for one of my medications several weeks before they send me refill notices for the others. And just when I think I have it figured out how I can get my medicines all at once, zing, I don't. Machines, it seems, have an advantage over men, automatic refill dates.

Getting emergency medications is no easier and may be even more difficult than getting regular prescription medicines. Recently, as I noted, I was given prednisone by my doctor to try to deal with asthma problems I was having. Since doctors, by and large, don't give you a paper prescription anymore since it is all done with the latest of corporate technology, the Internet, I had my second prescription for prednisone sent to the Walgreen's I have been using. When I went to get this med, I also had to pick up an antibiotic, I was told in classic paternalistic fashion I couldn't get the prednisone because I still had some prednisone left from a previous prescription. Fair point, I suppose, but I am a sixty year old adult who has always been a responsible user of prescription medicines. Anyway, I was told I could pick up the prednisone on Sunday. I specifically asked the attendant if the prescription would automatically be filled and was told yes it would.

So several days later I go to Walgreen's to pick up the prednisone and guess what, contrary to what I was told earlier, the prescription had not been automatically filled. I wasn't, by the way, surprised. I fully expected that this would be the case. I know how "efficient" bureaucracies work thanks to a lifetime of experience. Anyway, I told them to transfer the prescription to the brand spanking new CVS in Glenmont near where I was doing laundry. I walked over to CVS after I put my clothes in the dryer and guess what, the prescription, they told me, was still being worked on. They told me it would be available in ten minutes. After finishing my laundry I returned to CVS some twenty or thirty minutes later and guess what, the prescription was still being worked on. Ten minutes and it would be ready I was told.

I didn't wait. I have a life that includes three jobs, one of which requires extensive preparation time. And here is where I can sum up: bureaucratic time doesn't work on my time or your time. It works on their time, bureaucratic time. We can either conform to their time and their culture or...be cast out??? Welcome to the iron cage. Welcome to the world bureaucratic corporations have created. Welcome to utopia. I hope you like it.

Addendum: I discovered while trying to pick up my prescription at the Lincoln Pharmacy near my house on Thursday that the morons at CVS, the same idiots who said ten minutes, ten minutes more, over an hour and a half period about when my prescription would be ready, filled my prescription despite my telling them not to. Because of this these morons inhibited me from getting my emergency prescription, a prescription I very much needed, from Lincoln Pharmacy. As I told on Facebook should this negatively impact my healtht I will sue them.

On another bureaucratic note let me point out that when I called the Empire Plan about this kafkaesque nightmare it took me three calls on a pay as you go phone to get past their voice recognition, or should I say, lack of voice recognition system. Technology hasn't made bureaucracies more efficient. It has made them more frustrating.

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