Wednesday, October 05, 2011


Wow, CVS must hire Duane Reade rejectees. No record - none! - of my ever having had any interaction with this pharmacy, mere hours after I'd last tried to sort this out. Not after spelling out my name 100 times, not after giving them my phone number. The interaction ended with the "pharmacist" telling me thankyouhaveagooddaygoodbye as fast as she could, then hanging up on me before I'd finished trying to figure out what was going on. Since my "doctor" is the NYU student health center, my pharmacy their pharmacy, I'm not sure if the method a commenter suggested below - that I have my doctor call this in directly - would work. Of course, this is the only pharmacy I can get to by bike without majorly risking getting run over, which would, of course, render this whole "prescription" thing irrelevant.

So much as I want to be all, do not go to the CVS pharmacy on Nassau Street in Princeton, because it is the most horribly-run establishment in the entire nation, there is still a decent chance I will end up there regardless. Avoiding that CVS entirely is probably not possible, even though the front section is also a disaster, with a perma-broken "self-checkout" system that entails the cashier-who-isn't-because-it's-all-ostensibly-self-checkout having to go step by step with each customer's purchases, making sure they don't hit whichever sensor makes the whole thing beep and demand that you see a store employee.

OK, so it's not a full-on monopoly. There is a Rite-Aid at a location that's definitively bikeable from the Princeton campus, which is, in turn, definitively bikeable from here, which means a heck of a trip, but the person I spoke with on the phone there seemed to have it together. Seemed to, at least. I called again today and learned from whoever works this shift that Mr. Seemingly-Competent did not write down most of the info I gave, put the NYU pharmacy's phone number in place of the prescription number, and put down nothing about a "transfer," which would be the relevant detail.

Oh, and he had the right last name and phone number for me, but had my first name down as "Theodore." Theodore really needs his birth control pills. Not that this needs to be justified, but Theodore is one of those men who is on the Pill in part for medical reasons, and Theodore doesn't love fainting from pain (like literally fainting, hitting his head on the bathroom floor and getting a bruise) when he gets his period.

Ms. Seemingly-Competent, who is obviously no great fan of dude who works the previous shift, assures me this will all be done within the hour.

Somehow I see this ending up with me spending that $33, plus Metrocard fare, plus the cost of the prescription itself, and picking it up in New York.


Dan O. said...

Seriously frustrating. Amazing how capitalist health care systems reach Soviet levels of inefficiency. Actually, it's not amazing. It only seems amazing in light of being force-fed Ayn Rand as high-school students.

It's what happens when the pharmacy is a loss-leader for selling hair dye at 150% markup.

Britta said...

OMG I HATE CVS. I live right next to the CVS in HP so I shop there all the time, but seriously, every time I enter in there they give me some excuse to be filled with rage. They too have the broken "self" checkout stations which always require help, the employees who appear to know less about the store than you do, shelves which resemble shopping the in Soviet Union (need toilet paper? light bulbs? bandaids? conditioner? CVS will be completely out, leading you to wonder how the expression "convenience" fits into the description of their services.) They haven't been too bad with meds, except sometimes they're out of that as well, and then they're like, "I dunno...go to Walgreens."

But...on your particular problem, there should be someone from the NYU health center who can call on your behalf as a doctor and get the issue straightened out, even if they're not "your" doctor.

Phoebe said...

Dan, Britta,

Sympathy appreciated, this was *majorly* annoying. Rite-Aid eventually did come through, and it seems my biking skills have improved to the point where, while this was somewhat exhausting, I mostly didn't have near-death experiences getting to and from. I was tempted to give the (somewhat more convenient) CVS the finger as I passed it, but I was gripping the handlebar for dear life on that somewhat busy stretch of Nassau St.

And, it does seem like I need a doctor from the health center to call Rite-Aid in the future - something about a NY State pharmacy law that doesn't permit more than one transfer at a time.

Sigivald said...

I'll up Dan's ante and suggest that the real problem here is the prescription regime itself.

(And agree that CVS presumably sucks. I never use them, myself. But I have noticed that pretty much every pharmacy-store combination dedicated to the pharmacy biz* sucks, in terms of quality and service.

I think this is because - see above re. prescription regime - they have a captive market.

Hell, where else are you going to go when you're sick?)

(* By this I mean to exclude Safeway and the Kroger stores and the like, which have a pharmacy as a sideline, and target CVS, Walgreens, etc., who are all health-goods-focused.

I should remind myself of how bad a Walgreens is, every time I complain about how bad Safeway is... which is every time I shop there instead of Fred Meyer**.

** The regional-local Kroger store brand.)

Dan O. said...

Sigivald -

What, specifically, is the problem? Is it price ignorance on the part of doctors and consumers, or price fixing on the part of pharmaceutical and insurance industries?

The double message to consumers is that it doesn't matter how much it costs to get you well (or plan families), so long as you (less likely - your employer) spend a ****load on insurance and get frustrated by red tape at every turn. I thought that pervades healthcare, and prescriptions are a mere special case.

J. Otto Pohl said...

Ghana has an efficient medical system that avoids these problems. I go to the doctor at the hospital and get the script. This takes about two hours total and is free. I then take the script down the block and give it to the pharmacist. He gives me the medicine and I pay for it. This takes about ten minutes and about $30. I do this once every two months.

Phoebe said...

J. Otto,

And your point is? Do you have ideas of how to bring that efficiency to the States? Because I'm pretty sure that if I'm trying to avoid having to go from NJ to NY, going to Ghana to get refills would be extra inconvenient.

PG said...

I don't think the problem in general is that some medications require prescriptions, though I do think we sometimes over-mandate that.

Birth control is an obvious one that probably ought to be obtainable without prescription. In many developed countries you can just buy it off the shelf without a prescription, although doing that will get you a few minutes' lecture from the pharmacist about proper use and potential side effects.

But I am *strongly* in favor of requiring prescriptions to obtain antibiotics and other medications whose mis/overuse can have larger public health implications.

Phoebe said...


I don't disagree with you, but couldn't there also be some other route to the same end result - public health info. about the uselessness-and-worse of treating colds with antibiotics? And aren't far too many people taking them even with doctors needing to prescribe them? I suppose this would still mean antibiotics would be left prescription-only, but more because who outside the medical professions knows off-hand which is needed when, and at what dose?

PG said...


So far as I can tell, the public health info isn't very effective, to a large extent because while it's bad for us all if we create Superbacteria, it's only bad for ME if I forgo use of antibiotics that can't hurt and might help. (It's like getting people to go vote; good for society, a waste of time for individuals.) Or, another common problem, if I take antibiotics that I do need but don't use the full course because... I forgot, or I want to restart oral contraception, or whatever.

I think there should definitely be a professional who's at least aware that you're on the antibiotics and giving you a hard time about it if you don't use them properly. I'm not a fan of the consumerization of medicine (I don't believe in the old paternal model, but the "I'm paying so give me what I want" mode we're going toward is almost as bad).