Thursday, November 18, 2010

My Last Post

My first blog entry was June 24, 2007. In the 3 and 1/2 years since that first post, I've experienced a whole lot of life. While my original intentions for writing this blog were to entertain, it quickly evolved into a form of self-therapy. I looked deep inside myself to figure out what I really wanted in life. I explored the darkest emotions and analyzed past events repeatedly until I covered every conceivable angle. In the process I learned about not only myself but also the world in which I live.

In 2007, I was a 25 year old kid. I had no idea what I wanted. I was less than a year out of school. I still wasn't certain if I could cut it in the pharmacy world. I still viewed the world through the immature eyes of a child. There wasn't a single area of my life with which I was at peace, and I couldn't find a direction in life that would provide me with peace. Lost is easily the best way to describe my situation.

Over the following 2 years, I attempted to build up a life which could bring me some satisfaction. I took more responsibility at work. I attempted to make more friends and go out whenever the opportunity presented. I was determined to not let the breakup with my ex-girlfriend stand in the way of my future love life, so I even ventured as far as to try an online dating service... twice I might add.

I took the suggestions of friends and readers who commented on my posts. I made what many self-help gurus would say were healthy attempts at picking up the pieces of my life and moving on. However, no matter how hard I tried, my life always came crashing right back to square one.

The reason for the repeated crashes didn't occur to me until much later. My foundation wasn't solid. I was trying to build a life upon a flawed and shaky foundation. Therefore, no matter how many times or how many techniques I would try to build up to a higher and happier place, that faulty foundation would always cause my efforts to collapse back to ground level. I realized that the only way I could get to a better place was to start all over again and build my entire being from scratch.

In order to do this, I had to really analyze who I was and what brought me the small slivers of happiness that occasionally pierced the ever-present darkness in my life. I had to decide what, if anything, I wanted to believe in, and what were my core values. Anything that didn't fit in with those beliefs and values had to be removed from my life.

Everything was eligible for the chopping block. Family, friends, work, basketball... absolutely everything. I had to figure out the key components of that solid foundation I desperately needed. The first thing that went were most of my friends. People, who upon deep reflection, didn't value me as a person and whose lifestyles didn't mesh with my own interests and values were removed from my life. I knew that I wasn't a guy who was interested in going out partying and getting drunk, so any of my friends who thought the best use of their free time was to hit up a club and get wasted weren't going to fit into the life I wanted.

The next important step was deciding the best use of my free time was to get in shape. Having been an athlete for most of my life, it always upset me that I had put on 20+ pounds of mostly fat since the end of high school. No, I wasn't fat by any stretch of the imagination. However, I knew that I was out of shape. I knew that my diet of pizza, pretzels, beer, and cookies wasn't healthy for me. Objectively I knew that exercise and eating properly are far superior to any anti-depressant medication for lifting one's mood, but I was always too lazy to maintain a workout plan.

I educated myself on how to eat properly. I participated in online health and fitness forums in which knowledgeable posters showed me the evidence that proved that most of what I had known about nutrition and fitness was incorrect. I learned how to exercise efficiently. I learned how to eat a balanced diet, and more importantly, I learned the differences in the way our bodies metabolize different nutrients. Understanding the difference between high and low glycemic index carbohydrates and learning the fallacy of low fat diets enabled me to make great progress towards cutting weight and getting into good shape.

In less than 6 months, I shed 17 pounds (mostly of fat) and greatly increased the strength and efficiency of my muscles. I went from barely being able to do 3 pull-ups to being able to do sets up 8 reps with 35 pounds of weight strapped to me. Through high intensity interval training, I increased my cardiovascular endurance to the point where I could play basketball for 3 straight hours and barely feel winded. I brought my mile-run time down under 6 minutes for the first time since I was in middle school.

Besides the physical benefits of being in-shape. The absolute best part was that I felt happier. I didn't stress out as much. I found it easier to remain calm. I had more energy to do more things in my free time, and that led me to be in better spirits most of the time. It was wonderful.

Being in an almost perpetual good mood allowed me to finally come to terms with my, what many people would call depressing, beliefs. I knew I didn't believe in any organized religion. I knew I was a strict science and logic guy. There's no heaven. There's no hell. Human beings aren't a part of some big plan, but rather an evolutionary accident that will some day vanish from the earth just like virtually every species throughout all of the planet's lifespan has done and will do. Life will continue to thrive on this planet long after humans are extinct. We will ultimately be forgotten by the universe and nothing we ever did or will do will ultimately matter.

With that in mind, I don't believe in angels. I don't believe in demons or ghosts. I don't believe things are "meant to be," and there is no divine plan. I believe praying does absolutely nothing besides provide a placebo effect (and even that is being shown to be untrue by newer studies on the subject). Moreover, as I've noted before in this blog, prayer is kind of a stupid notion because when you break it down logically, it makes no sense at all. I don't believe everyone is special. I don't really believe anyone is special. We're all just kind of here entirely by accident, and we're all going to die sooner or later.

Depressing, right? I know. I struggled with it for a long time. It's hard to come up with a reason to go on when you don't believe there's any real point to all of this. It all just seems so unimportant, and objectively speaking, it isn't important at all.

However, in my fitness induced good-mood I had a moment of clarity. Why does there have to be a purpose? Who cares if we live a few decades and die without leaving any real lasting impression on the universe? The funny thing about human intelligence is that we're the only species in the entire history of the planet who could even care about a meaning to life. For a billion years, life has been rolling along. Each individual life form lives out it's comparatively short life-span, and the cycle just keeps going.

Maybe the point of life is simply to live. In that way, no living thing is any more special than any other living thing. However, the simple fact that we're alive makes us all special. In case, you haven't noticed, life is pretty rare in the universe. The chances of the right compounds being present in the right environment for the chemical reactions of life to start are very very slim. However, right here on Earth, it happened, and in that sense, we've hit the universal lottery. Our mere existence is incredible. In my eyes, that's all the reason I need to live.

That was the last piece of my foundation. I knew it was a solid one because it came entirely from myself. No part of it was unconsidered or handed down from a parent or other authoritative figures in my life. It was my own.

From there, I could slowly start building up the life I wanted without excessive worries or expectations. I was finally content, and that happy feeling allowed me to finally pull my heart away from my ex-girlfriend and open it up to someone new. As I've said before, I'm not happy because I have a girlfriend. I have a girlfriend now because I'm happy. She didn't save me, and if this relationship doesn't work out, it won't ruin me either. I saved myself, and my happiness is completely derived from myself.

That brings me to the end of this blog. The previous 325 posts have helped me accomplish everything I wanted to when I wrote that first post in June, 2007. It was important to me in ways, despite all my analysis, I'll never fully understand. I thank everyone who has ever read my blog, and I especially want to thank those who took the time to comment on my posts (regardless of whether the comment was positive or negative, whether it agreed or disagreed with what I was saying). Whether you realize it or not, your shared in my strange, enlightening, and often times frustrating journey. I was a kid when I started this blog. Now I'm nearly 29 years old, and now I'm a nearly 29 year old man with a renewed sense of self. I'm sure if you go back and read my earlier posts, the change in tone is very noticeable. Looking back, it's actually quite fascinating to see how my mind was working at each stage of my metamorphosis.

The blog will remain up for a little while I try to back up my posts. I've written nearly 1,000 pages here. I'm not just going to throw them away. However, once I get everything archived, I'm taking the blog down. I'm sure this won't be the end of my writing. I like to write, so I'll continue in one form or another, but it won't be here. Maybe I'll start up a new blog. I'm keeping my options open.

(Typical of my writing style, this last post was incredibly long-winded. I'll apologize one final time for writing too much.)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

This Free Antibiotic Bullshit Has to End

I'm so sick and tired of free antibiotics. It is the most pointless promotion in business history. ALL BUSINESS. I'm not even talking about just pharmacy here. I challenge you to come up with a dumber business strategy than handing out free antibiotics.

Free antibiotics have not increased our script volume. They have not increased our sales of OTC medication. They have not brought in new loyal pharmacy customers. The only thing they have accomplished is decreasing our gross margin.

It hasn't even made our community healthier. If anything, we've jeopardized public health by promoting wide spread use of antibiotics when not really necessary, which could in turn increase the growth of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

I've hated this program the entire time we've been running it. However, the tipping point was last Friday when I heard the store manager bitching about my flu shot table. You see... I have a table set up in front of the pharmacy where I set up all the stuff I need to give flu shots. While I'm working at the pharmacy, I keep a flu shot sign, a box of gloves, bandaids, and gauze pads on the table. I used to keep the sharps container there too, but the store manager said it could be a safety hazard, so I now keep it behind the pharmacy counter and carry it out with me whenever I have to give a shot.

The store manager never really liked my flu shot table from the start. However, the company was actively promoting flu shots and had signs up all over the store, so he didn't really contest its presence. Apparently, my employer thinks that the end of October marks the end up flu season, and it pulled pretty much all of the flu shot advertisements. The new signs that went up were all promoting the free antibiotic program.

Since the flu shot signs came down, my store manager thought that it would be a great time to voice his disapproval of the table. On Friday, he asked how much longer it would be there and complained that it was just taking up space in front of the pharmacy (as if they were going to use it for something more constructive).

This seriously pisses me off. The store goes all out promoting this moronic free antibiotic program that does nothing but piss away money. However, when it comes to flu shots that actually net us a very decent profit, it can't wait until I stop giving them. To reiterate, the store promotes a program that can endanger the public by spurring the growth of resistant organisms, but it pushes aside a program that helps to prevent illness and saves the health care system money.

As much as I disagree with my employer's policy on free antibiotics and the rampant use of gift cards to promote the pharmacy, my store manager is the one that really draws my ire. He's such an arrogant bastard. He constantly wants to know what our sales numbers look like for the week, and if we report a low figure to him, he acts like it's because we're just not working hard enough. It's our fault we're not generating a lot of revenue. It has nothing to do with the company's policy of giving our most popular drugs away for free.

Last week, we actually did fairly well sales-wise. Upon hearing our figures, he sarcastically applauded us and couldn't resist mockingly saying, "it must be all the flu shots."

Fuck you, you arrogant prick. What have you done that's so fucking great? From my view point, you mostly stock shelves all day, and just like every other store manager we've ever had, you'll only be around for another 5 or 6 months before corporate ships you off to another store. Store managers are a dime a dozen. They're entire job is to make the store look neat and to otherwise act as a bitch to the corporate offices. They don't think on their own. They don't enact policies or promotions. They just follow orders.

Therefore, this glorified grunt worker mocking my professional services is a real fucking joke. I haven't given out a ton of flu shots in the grand scheme of things, but I am over 100 for the season so far. That's over $1,500 of pure profit that only I could bring in. There are no other immunizers in my store. It's just me, and if it weren't for my flu shot table, that $1,500 would be in Walgreens' or CVS's pocket and not ours. Maybe it's not a lot, but it's more profit than our current store manager has ever been solely responsible for producing.

Since, I'm back on the subject of profits, let me further illustrate how ridiculous these free antibiotic and $4 generic programs are. They're actually amazing in that at the same time they are decreasing our profit margins, they are increasing drug prices. Yes, that's correct. Instead of making drugs more affordable for patients, they are actually raising costs (and decreasing the quality of pharmacy services I might add).

North Dakota has a law that stipulates that all pharmacies must be majority-owned by a licensed pharmacist. Obviously, CVS, Walgreens, and the other major chains don't like this law because it excludes them from opening pharmacies in North Dakota. Therefore, they've attacked the law saying that North Dakota is depriving its residents of the cheaper drug prices that the major chains can provide (in the form of $4 generics and free antibiotics).

Well, in January 2009, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance showed this not to be true. In fact, it concluded that repealing the law "would cost the state millions of dollars in annual economic activity and tax revenue, dramatically reduce the number of pharmacies serving rural areas, and degrade the overall quality of pharmacy services in the state."

Among the report’s key findings is that rural areas of the state have far more pharmacies and greater access to these vital health care services than is found in other states. Census tracts with 2,001-3,500 people in North Dakota are 31% more likely to have a pharmacy than those in South Dakota. And, while only one-quarter of census tracts with 1,001– 2,000 people in South Dakota have a pharmacy, nearly half of those in North Dakota do.

The report also mentioned how North Dakota has prescription prices that are well below the national average, and how repealing the law would result in a net loss of $23 million per year in direct economic benefits.

The moral of the story is that maybe big chain pharmacies should reconsider their pricing habits considering the one place in this country that doesn't make a habit of giving shit away for free is the one providing the best care and making decent profits at the same time.

Baby steps though. Let's start slow. Just get rid of the stupid free antibiotics.