By Norris Chambers

             You have an ailment that sends you to the doctor. He allows you a six minute visit after an hour or two of waiting in a room filled with other ailing folks. After a quick weigh-in and temperature test your blood pressure is measured and you answer a few simple questions. After a few “ahs” and “hmms” you are given a prescription that you cannot read. Hopefully your pharmacist will be able to decipher it. On the way home you stop at the drug store to get the medicine that he prescribed.

            The pharmacist looks it over and punches a few keys on his computer.

            “It will be ready in about twenty minutes,” he tells you. You are experienced at this game and quickly ask: “How much will it cost?”

            This question requires a few more key punches.

            “It will be $162.00 for a two week supply.” That is more than you had expected.

            “Is there a generic for it,” you ask. The answer is “No.” With the house payment due and the auto insurance expiring you couldn’t afford an unexpected expense like that, even if you had the money. Sadly, you take the prescription and walk out.

            Several years ago a friend developed a sore throat. He went to the doctor and was given a prescription. He entered the drug store and walked to the pharmacy in the back where he handed it to the man with a white coat. He was informed that it would be ready in a few minutes. That left a little time for browsing around in the store.

            In a few minutes he saw the pharmacist walk to the over-the-counter aisle on the other side of the store and take a bottle back to his area. When he went back to get his prescription it was ready and the charge was $12.50. It was in a long, thin bottle and he noticed that it resembled the bottle that the druggist had taken from the store shelf. His curiosity was aroused and he walked over to examine the bottles. One that looked just like the one the pharmacist had taken and was an over-the-counter medication for a sore throat. The price was $2.59. He noticed that it contained 20 tablets. His prescription was for twelve tablets and when he opened the bottle there were twelve tablets in it. A label had been slapped over the original label and eight tablets had been removed.

            Was this fraud on the part of the pharmacist, or was it just unethical?

            Many, many years ago things were different. We didn’t have miracle drugs and expensive operations. Some of us died then who might have been saved by today’s medical technology.

            In those long ago days there were no drug stores in the smaller towns and the doctors made house calls. They traveled by horseback or buggy and carried all the drugs with them that they needed to treat the diseases that they were able to diagnose and cure. In the late 1800s the usual price of a house call was $1.00. In many cases this was more than the patient could pay so the doctor took some kind of farm produce for his pay or extended credit. Sometimes the bill was paid later and sometimes it was never paid. The doctor treated his patients regardless of their ability to pay.

            In the early 1900s drug stores began to appear and the doctors began to write prescriptions. The prescription process was not controlled very closely. I remember in the area where I lived the residents often exchanged prescription numbers. If Mrs. Anglin had a cough it was quite likely that a neighbor had a prescription number that had been given to her or another neighbor by a doctor. Mrs. Anglin could take the prescription number to the drug store and ask for a refill of that number. There was no argument from the pharmacist and he sold her the prescription. In most cases the system worked. Of course if the cough were caused by some other affliction except that for which it was originally written it probably didn’t work.

            During the prohibition days of the thirties drug stores were allowed to sell whiskey with a doctor’s prescription. Many drug stores had prescriptions available for those who needed the medicine to maintain their health! Was this practice illegal or just a case of being helpful?

            There is much more that could be said for old time medicine and the new medical system but the best solution is still, “Just don’t get sick!”

            Getting sick never was any fun and it still isn’t.