Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Town I Live In: CVS Pharmacy

I’m at the CVS pharmacy on Euclid Ave. in Fullerton.

“May I help you?” the pharmacy girl asks.

“Yes,” I say, “I have a prescription on file here and I am getting it in installments because I don’t have health insurance and my prescription is absurdly expensive, like ten dollars a pill.”

She pulls up my prescription on her computer.

“How many pills would you like today?” she asks.

“One.”

“One?”

“Yep. That’s all I can afford.”

She types some things on her computer.

“One pill will be $15.75.”

“$15.75?! Three days ago it was $10.”

“That’s what the computer says.”

“How can they just change the price like that? We’re not talking about Alaskan salmon here. It’s a pill. I want to speak with the pharmacist.”

“Okay. One moment.”

The pharmacist, a shy Asian man, walks over.

“Can I help you?” he asks.

“I hope so,” I say, and explain the issue.

“I don’t have any control over pricing,” he says.

“But you deal with drug company reps, right? I mean, who can I complain to? I’m getting gouged here. This pill is supposed to help with anxiety and depression, and these prices are making me more anxious and depressed.”

“I understand,” he says, “Prescription costs are a problem.”

“You got that right.”

Afterward, I feel a little bad for raising my voice at that shy pharmacist. It’s not his fault. But he is part of a system that is inhuman and broken, a system where no one is willing to accept blame, where pharmacy workers can shrug their shoulders and say, “That’s what the computer says,” as if the computer is at fault. You can’t blame the fucking computer! Human beings conrol this and I want to know which human or humans are responsible, so I can yell at them and not this shy pharmacist who is, to quote Bob Dylan, “only a pawn in their game.” I have tried emailing the manufacturer of my pills, Astrazeneca, but they do not respond. I’m mad as hell.

When I leave, I look at the large laminated images in the windows of CVS Pharmacy, depicting people looking happy and healthy. I want to smash those windows with my fists, but I do not because I don’t have health insurance and the cost to repair my damaged fists would probably ruin me financially.

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