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.