I left pharmacy for good in 2002. Since then when I meet people I inevitably get asked, usually with some degree of amazement, why I did such a thing. Being a pharmacist is seen by most people as classy, high paying job with a reasonable degree of social status. Why would I give that up?
Usually my responses are vague and perfunctory. My basic theory is there are at least two subjects that people don’t like hearing about; descriptions of dreams, and job discontents. For years I’ve thought of writing down all the little things that added up to my decision to leave pharmacy forever. I thought it might act as sort of a purgative, a way to get rid of the bad memories. But in the end, I decided this would be counter-productive, as I would probably come across as a bitter and disgruntled person.
But there’s one pharmacy story that’s bigger than my own personal discontent, and I think it’s striking enough to write down. It’s a wild story, and if you find yourself skeptical about my claims, I invite you to ask other pharmacists who worked in the South Seattle or Burien areas during the late 80’s and early 90’s for their own accounts. I’m quite confident that you would get a very similar story.
Our story is one of corruption. Corruption that goes on for years, corruption which everyone knows about and about which nothing is done. Our story is about a corrupt doctor. I’ll call him Victor Charlie, as I’d rather avoid becoming embroiled in libel litigation.
First off, I worked for a local pharmacy chain in the late 80’s and early 90’s called Pay ‘n Save. They are no longer in business, as I believe they were bought out by Payless in about 1994. I was promoted from being a staff pharmacist at Westwood Village in West Seattle to head pharmacist at a store in Burien. At the time, I was the youngest head pharmacist in the chain.
I had filled some prescriptions for Doctor Victor Charlie in West Seattle, so I knew a little bit about him. But when I got to Burien, the number of prescriptions I was filling for him probably increased by a factor of five or six, as his office was literally just up the street.
Now at this point, I need to make clear that some of this story is information I gained second-hand, and some is direct and personal. I was told, but did not know for a fact, that VC’s office was also his home, and that his “secretary” was his wife.
VC was not allowed to prescribe controlled substances. This is an indication of the power of the DEA, a Federal agency, which issues licenses to Doctors which allow them to prescribe controlled substances. Even before I worked in Burien, I heard wild tales of why VC’s DEA license had been stripped. Again, the stories were so outrageous that I was skeptical of them. So over time, I began asking as many pharmacists as I could whether the stories were true. Indeed, to a person, they would all describe the same scenario. Evidently, during VC’s heyday, he would simply write three prescriptions for each and every patient that he saw, regardless of their medical condition or lack thereof. Prescription one was for a pint bottle (473ml) of Tussionex. Prescription two was for 100 ten milligram Valium tablets. Prescription three was for 100 Percodan or Percocet tablets. I know this sounds like a complete whopper of a tale, as the abuse pattern is obvious. But as I say, I spoke to numerous pharmacists, and they all told me the same thing, right down the particular drugs and quantities.
Well, the “patients” of Doctor VC had to get their scripts filled somewhere, and so to the local pharmacies they went. I was told by the same pharmacists that VC’s clients would be literally standing in line outside the various pharmacies in South Seattle to get their scripts filled first thing in the morning as the stores opened.
Needless to say, abuse on this scale raises red flags immediately with any moral individual, and soon enough the DEA stripped VC’s license to prescribe controlled substances. Amazingly enough though, he still retained his Washington State Medical License!
By the time I came onto the scene, VC still had an active State License, and was still prescribing drugs. But now he had figured out his Great Loophole. He found a buzz drug which was not a controlled substance! This was the magical Soma, whose generic name is carisoprodol. If you have received spam e-mail mentioning “Soma” and wondered why, now you know. For some odd reason, the DEA did not classify it as a controlled substance, even though it’s a highly euphoric downer. I see by the Wikipedia article on carisoprodol that the legal status has now changed, but again I’m talking about the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.
VC prescribed nothing but Soma. His prescriptions all read “Soma #C i TID” then his signature on the “substitution permitted” line. On ONE occasion as a pharmacist, I saw him write a script for HCTZ for a woman. I flat out told the gal what VC was all about. I suspect she had no idea he was a corrupt scumbag, and blundered into him by chance. I suggested she find another doctor.
At this point our story gets ugly, as the raw and corrupt nature of the situation comes to light. Almost all of VC’s clients were on welfare or DSHS, as it’s known here in Washington. The claim that I heard second hand, but could not verify directly, was that DSHS would not reimburse VC for client visits, and so VC would have to charge his legion of scrotes actual cash money for their office visits. Right there, if true it proved corruption and abuse by ALL his DSHS clients, as a genuine and legitimate welfare client wouldn’t pay out of pocket for an office visit.
But the deal was, DSHS would reimburse the pharmacies for the DRUGS THEMSELVES! And here I will publicly admit my shame in participating in this corruption. As a pharmacist, I had a legal right to refuse to fill VC’s scripts. But I didn’t. Why not? Because I had a strong intuition that If I did so, VC would complain to the higher-ups at Pay ‘n Save, and that Pay ‘n Save wouldn’t back me up.
Virtually ALL of VC’s clients were on DSHS. The taxpayers of Washington State were being ripped off for thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars each year, just so the clients of VC could get high. In just the 2 years or so I worked at the Burien location, I must have dispensed 100,000 hits of generic Soma from VC, all billed to DSHS and the taxpayers of Washington.
As a weird aside, all of this was occurring before the World Wide Web. VC had hundreds of clients, seemingly all the human garbage of South King County on his Rolodex. It continuously amazed me how sheer word-of-mouth power was able to connect so many individuals into a gigantic drug-scrote network.
For years after I left pharmacy, I couldn’t even read stories on the Internet about new drugs or medical treatments. It brought back too much negative emotional baggage. I’m mostly over that now, but from time to time, you hear about some horrific human tragedy that occurs because Washington DSHS dropped the ball. Well, I’m here to tell you that DSHS knew perfectly well about the egregious corruption of VC which went on for YEARS, and did nothing about it. And the Washington Board of Medicine was also to blame, as they too did NOTHING. Both of them were taxpayer-funded agencies of flaccid, impotent, castrated eunuchs.
I left Pay ‘n Save in 1992 to go on the road as a sideshow performer. I did that until 1994 when I became a pharmacist again. By this time Pay ‘n Save had been bought out and I was employed elsewhere. Sometime in 1994 or 1995 I received a memo in the interoffice mail that VC’s Washington State Medical License had finally been stripped! As a gag, I called him up and asked him about it. I asked him what to do if I got one of his prescriptions. He claimed he was fighting his battle in court, and that his prescriptions were still valid…
Using the power of the Internet, this afternoon I googled VC’s name and discovered that he continued to prescribe Soma and another drug called Nubain after the board had stripped his license! Indeed, according to court documents, his “clinic” was adjacent to his house. The police set up a sting operation, and VC’s property was seized when drugs were found in his residence and “clinic.” You would think that this would shut the guy down for good, but amazingly enough, he and his wife beat the asset forfeiture rap in court!
The cynicism I have about certain aspects of the medical establishment and the abuse of the welfare system is still hard to shuck. When I read that Michael Jackson’s doctor had not been stripped of his California Medical license even after Jackson’s autopsy verdict came back as homicide, I wasn’t really that surprised…