Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Policing the Pill Poppers

Item: Letter to the Editor, Newsday, 12 January 2012, p. A33:

"Put Pharmacies inside Precincts"

The recent robberies and killings resulting from people's addiction to painkillers requires a very simple solution: Make pharmacies stop selling the pills and create a few centralized pharmacies on Long Island in police precincts for pickup of authorized controlled substances.

Then maybe not only will addicts stop filling these prescriptions, but maybe doctors will stop writing them or be held accountable for writing them.

Michele Zodda, St. James"

My comments, in no particular order:

1. Yes, our household receives home delivery of Newsday every morning. The many reasons why I am not the greatest fan of Newsday shall be dispensed with at this time, but here on Long Island the publication does have one minor thing to be said in its favor, namely that it is better than the New York Times. We have chosen to subscribe to it as a source of information, but are not very wild about it. A more practical reason why we subscribe: My wife's patients are always asking her about medical-related items appearing in Newsday, so she needs to know what Newsday published in order to affirm, qualify or (more frequently) debunk it when the patients ask her about it.

2. Lately, there have been a number of violent and deadly incidents at some Long Island pharmacies, perpetuated by drug addicts seeking to sate their chemical cravings. This Blog's posting of 23 June 2011 discusses one such horrific episode. discusses one such horrific episode. Newsday has been running an investigative series on the problem, implicating various physicians and pharmacists who have been less than careful in the prescription and dispensation of certain drugs. In that regard, Newsday is functioning as the press should function because its coverage of the matter will surely spur some reforms.

3. Though I never was really into the Dismal Science of Economics, I did take a number of Econ courses in college and in grad school. The phrase "a few centralized pharmacies on Long Island in police precincts" reeks of oligopoly if not monopoly. This would reduce competition in the marketplace, and raise the cost of prescription drugs. I know nothing about the letter writer, Michele Zodda (other than her address), but wouldn't it be ironic if she were in the camp of the Occu-Shmucks who crowded Zuccotti Park and whined (and continue to whine) about too much money and power being in the hands of too few?

4. More along those lines, what criteria would be used to determine which pharmacy entrepreneurs get to have those coveted concessions inside the police precinct stations? Who would make the decision? How could politics not play a role? And if politics does play a role, how could the big pharmacy chains not sink their resources into the venture, to the exclusion of the small business entrepreneurs?

5. Isn't the whole purpose of pharmacies and drug prescriptions to control the misuse of drugs in the first place? Why should the public tax money be used to duplicate a system that functions reasonably well in the first place? Shouldn't the system be tweaked instead of reinventing the wheel?

6. Why should the pharmacy industry be singled out? Shouldn't other high risk industries also be sited in police precincts? In such regard, try this little Googling exercise: restrict results to the prodeathpenalty.com website. Then google the following words or phrases: "Drug store," "drugstore," and "pharmacy." Each of those will get a small number of hits. Now try "convenience store" and you will get over 100 hits. Convenience stores are even more likely to be the scenes of violence than pharmacies.

7. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? With all due respect to my friends and clients in law enforcement, the powers of the police do need checks and balances. Indeed, the reason the United States has endured as a nation is because its governmental systems have had effective checks and balances. There will need to be measures taken to prevent the 7-Eleven concessions Michele Zodda would logically place in the police precinct stations from giving the police force too many free doughnuts. And, for that matter, Ms. Zodda's pharmacies from giving too many of their wares to the police officers.

8. I agree with Ms. Zodda that there is a problem. But changing the locations of the pharmacies will not resolve it. The problem is not that pharmacies stock controlled substances (remember, that is the very purpose of having pharmacies in the first place). The problem is that the pharmaceutical manufacturers have, over the past 30 or 40 years, bypassed the physician. The full color, full page display ads are not just in the New England Journal of Medicine and other physician-oriented publications; Big Pharma now spends billions to advertise in in newspapers and consumer-oriented magazines, and in the broadcast media. The physician is no longer a fully-empowered gatekeeper to keep controlled substances away from those who should not ingest them. As long as Big Pharma markets to the patients without the meaningful participation of the physician, the drug-related violence will be all the more exacerbated.

9. The police are too busy fighting crime. Why not just let the pharmacists be properly trained and armed? That would free up the police officers to do what they have been trained to do. Besides, at the precinct pharmacies envisioned by Ms. Zodda, the police would be under special obligation to bend over backwards in ensuring the criminals' constitutional rights. The private sector pharmacist with a Glock would not be held to quite the same standard.

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