Pharmaceutical Industry – Solution For Our Economic Crisis?

In the past month, I’ve had the opportunity to chat with a few people about career and educational choices and changes they’re making as a result of (dramatic drum roll, please) “the economy”.

As if the palpable stress of so many weren’t bad enough, what I’ve been hearing has made me sad. I know it’s all just a sign of the times – kind of like texting and ‘tweeting’ every single thought that crosses your mind, rather than just calling or speaking complete words and sentences to people (!)… I digress yet again!! Nonetheless, sign of the times or not, it still makes me sad.

The first ‘incident’ happened in our practice. I was introducing myself to a lovely, bright young practice member that I had not yet met. After chatting for a few minutes I discovered that, although her true passion was for teaching, she had chosen to study pharmacology “because that’s where all the money is!”

Yes, you know I threw up a little bit!

I think the look of surprise and horror on my face caused her to try to explain! She very enthusiastically told me “how great the money is in pharmacy, and how they need more pharmacists and pharmacy techs because more and more people are taking drugs… and they only expect it to keep getting better as the economy worsens and people get more stressed out and start taking antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication!!”

Yep… she said “getting better” as she was referring to people taking more drugs. Unbelievable.

Next, in one week’s time, I talked to two high school students who would both like to work for pharmaceutical companies “because they make a lot of money, and there’s total job security… dude!” Oh, and “When you’re a drug rep, you just have to be good looking and really good at schmoozing doctors into trying your new drugs… it’s sweeeet!!”

Seriously. Who on earth is putting these thoughts in teenagers heads??? I’m never letting my kids out of the house again.

Then, the most recent conversation I’ve had on this subject came last weekend. I met a young mother who had recently gone back to school to work toward becoming a pharmacist. In this case, there was some passion. There was also a whole lot of focus on “how much big time money they make”, but, some passion too!

She told me how she wants to become a pharmacist so that she can save people’s lives. Interesting. So I asked her if she meant ‘saving’ people’s lives by helping them get OFF their meds and talking to their docs about addressing the cause? Or by being an astute ‘guard dog’ that makes sure their drugs aren’t contraindicated or reacting negatively to each other? (Since, God knows, our doctors can no longer manage all the drugs!)

That, by the way, is a very REAL life-saving endeavor I believe pharmacists can and often DO accomplish – protecting us from dangerous combinations of prescriptions.

She said that the protection aspect was definitely part of it, but even more than that was the vision to help people feel better, and therefore “save their lives”.

Hmmmm. Interesting definition of saving lives. Someone could feel ‘good’, yet be developing cancer, while someone else could feel rotten because they’ve got a toothache, yet they’re healthy overall. Hmmmm… no wonder our society is in a health crisis. Strange definitions of health!

If you can’t accurately define what “healthy” is, how can you achieve it?

Then this young pharmacist-to-be went on to share her excitement with me regarding what a “booming industry” the pharmaceutical industry is! I kid you not: “It’s totally awesome! I mean, I know it’s sad and all… what’s happening with the economy and people’s jobs and losing their homes and stuff… but it’s great for the pharmaceutical companies! More people are taking drugs now than ever before… and more and more will start taking them because of all the stress and depression and all the sickness that happens because of stress! People don’t want to DO anything to get better – they just want to pop a pill and feel better! You wouldn’t believe all the things they’re working on making drugs for – it’s awesome!!”

Uh-huh… that time I threw up much bigger!

And I cried inside.

That same weekend, I had three separate conversations with friends of mine who are all teachers. We were discussing how Michigan schools are now moving into full-day kindergarten. Each lady (all are moms) was sharing their opinion and the opinions of many parents they’ve spoken to on this issue.

I found it interesting that so many teachers and parents are not in favor of this move, yet it’s happening anyway. (I don’t know enough of the ‘facts’ to share an educated opinion on this, nor do I feel the need to since I home school at this time!)

Apparently, many feel the primary impetus for this move is the fact that so many families have both parents working and that daycare is far too expensive for families these days. Sending them to school is cheaper and allows a parent to get in a few more hours of work (and pay). I get it. It’s understandable. If it’s true, it’s just sad that what’s best for those little children isn’t what came first in the decision.

What I found sad and horrible – and a sign of our times – was that each of these three teachers, without ANY prompting from ME … I mean it! – ALL ended up talking about how this single move will result in a significant increase in the number of young children being diagnosed with some type of behavioral disorder and taking drugs.

Honestly, I hadn’t thought of it until the first teacher brought it up.

They talked about having a room full of 4 and 5 year olds, for the entire day, and expecting them to sit still and pay attention for that long… how next-to-impossible that would be! Then the conversations transitioned to how many teachers would start taking drugs as a result! They said this jokingly… but then we realized it’s probably a pretty accurate estimation of what might happen.

Crazy times when, as a society, our ‘solution’ for stress is to add toxic chemical stress to the body… and to expect things to actually get better as a result! Drugs for short-term survival? Sure. Whatever floats your boat and saves your life. For long term solution? Not a chance. Sooner or later, you need to address the cause.

A completely hilarious friend, who also happens to be a pastor, has been joking around with us ever since we had children. He says, as a pastor, the fear is always that your kids are going to go out and be a menace to society or demonstrate questionable morals, like having premarital sex or joining a cult. He said it’s a mortifying thought as a pastor! So, he has always joked with us that, as wellness docs, what would our kids do that would drive us over the edge… sneak aspirin? Take drugs for a cold? Take an antibiotic for a virus?

Yeah, he’s pretty funny, all right!

But now, I have a new response for him. The thing they could do that would push me over the top would be to choose to work in the pharmaceutical industry because “it’s totally awesome, dude… and they make so much money…. it’s sweeeet!”