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    Is there age bias in pharmacy?

    Pharmacists speak out

    When we published “They shoot horses, don’t they?” by Jim “Goose” Rawlings in the February issue of Drug Topics, we did not foresee the degree of reaction it would unleash. However, Goose’s story of the young pharmacy school graduate who thought older pharmacists should step aside and leave their jobs to new PharmDs struck a nerve, and the e-mails have been coming in ever since. Here's what your fellow pharms are saying.       

    Many middle-aged pharmacists wrote to tell us about on-the-job — or end-of-job — experiences that they attribute to age discrimination. However, others said that they were chosen for positions of responsibility later in life precisely because of their years of experience.

    Some said that in spite of the challenges, they are making the best of difficult work situations because the satisfaction of work well done continues to drive them.

    A few young PharmDs wrote to say how much they appreciated older pharmacists as exemplars and mentors.

    And two 83-year-olds wrote in to say they’re still very active, thank you very much, and having a blast. One of the latter told us about a fellow pharmacist, now 90, who finally retired a few years ago and had a hard time persuading his employer to let him leave.

    As you can see, reactions to this column ran the gamut. We figure you’ll find them as interesting as we did, so we have gathered as many as possible below. If you have a comment of your own to add to this discussion, send it to [email protected] and we will share it with your fellow readers in an upcoming issue of the magazine.

    If you have more than a brief comment in mind, send us an opinion piece of your own, for future posting to the DT Blog.

    Julianne Stein, Content Channel Manager
    Julianne Stein is managing editor for Drug Topics magazine.


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    • Anonymous
      Often the "best and the brightest" get eliminated from many organizations. Is it actually age bias?
    • Mr. BSolomon
      It is astonishing. I graduated Columbia University School of Pharmacy in the 50s. Could not get a Job in NY. Why? I looked too young ( at 22 ). Came to CA and worked x 55 years ( now 78 ). If I was to look for a job now - probably would be considered TOO OLD Barry Solomon, R.Ph M.Ed
    • Mr. BSolomon
      It is astonishing. I graduated Columbia University School of Pharmacy in the 50s. Could not get a Job in NY. Why? I looked too young ( at 22 ). Came to CA and worked x 55 years ( now 78 ). If I was to look for a job now - probably would be considered TOO OLD Barry Solomon, R.Ph M.Ed
    • Anonymous
      I was SO GLAD to see this article! Yes, there is age bias in pharmacy I am sorry to say. I graduated in 1990 with my Pharm.D., did a residency and obtained my BCPS. Really love teaching and trying to stay on the forefront of therapies and never have had a less than above average performance evaluation. In the past 4 years I have been passed over twice. Once for a clinical coordinator position by a much younger pharmacist 2 years out of pharmacy school (no other training) and the second time by a pharmacist 20 years younger with no where near the qualifications. Needless to say, I am looking for a different position, but am afraid to leave my current employer due to my age and lack of jobs. I am in agreement with the comment about passing some of the blame onto the profession for allowing the proliferation of schools of pharmacy. How many new medical schools have opened in the past 20 years? Are any of them three year programs? Additionally, other than being in an academic setting, I have not reaped one employment-related benefit from being BCPS for the past 24 years. I definitely would not go into pharmacy today and will not recommend it to my daughters. To the young pharmacists complaining about debt, I still have to pay for college and retirement, so I will not be the vacating the workplace anytime soon.
    • Anonymous
      I recently had a thirty-something PharmD say to me that the "old dumb pharmacists" were going to be surprised when our facility got some new hires. She felt the new hires would get our premium "satellite" positions (7:30-4 decentralized locations). The really funny part of this is the "old" pharmacists she was referring to wasn't me (4 years from retirement); she was talking about herself and the other 30 somethings!!???? My biggest complaint is that the new hires along with the current 30-somethings all think they graduated to desk jobs. Pharmacy is still a "dispensing" job. We have to get the correct med to the correct patient !!! You can't do all the clinical jobs effectively if the meds never get to the patients. Very few new grads that have been hired at our facility are concerned with doing this vital job accurately and efficiently. Our associate directors have made it no secret that PharmDs are preferred over the older BSPharm we have on staff for whatever jobs become available. We have even had some BSPharm go back to get their PharmDs and they are still not considered "clinical" enough for new positions. I don't really know what the answer is, but I do know when I can retire, I am leaving and never looking back.
    • AlanChwalek
      I felt the age bias at 52. I was burned out so i quit back in 2009. I also inherited money. I worked with a 20 something year old pharmacist and we did not like each other. Quitting was the worst mistake I have ever made. WORK WAS MY LIFE. Now I feel lost. I did some tempt work after that. I am currently 56 and would love to work again, but i feel i don't have a chance at my age.
    • MarkBurger
      As a 63 year old pharmacist that has practiced in just about every setting (hospital, home infusion, radiopharmacy, teaching, FDA, drug information, retail, compounding) I wouldn't even WANT to work in today's PBM-ruled, narrow-minded pharmacy environment. By the same token: No recent graduate or near-recent graduate is qualified to work in MY pharmacy since they (usually) are taught (and believe) all the Medical Myths promulgated by Western Medicine and Pharma. Some of those myths are: Cholesterol causes CVD. Salt causes HTN. Too much stomach acid causes heartburn. Swallowing hormones is OK. The cure for all dermatology issues is a steroid cream or an anti-TNF drug. TSH is the only test required to manage/rule-out thyroid disease. Testosterone causes heart disease. Testosterone causes prostate CA. The sun causes melanoma. Sunblocks are OK to use. Endometriosis should be treated with BC pills. Cancer can only be cured with surgery, chemotx, and/or radx. APAP is a good pain reliever. If an anti-psychotic or anti-depressant doesn't work, double the dose, then add another agent, then another until you "cure" the person. ADHD is a real disease treatable with amphetamines. RA is treated with chemotx or anti-TNF drugs or steroids. Hypoadrenalism is not a real thing, only treat the bottom 5% of the Bell Curve (Addison's), the rest of the people are fine. It is a waste of time to measure a woman's (or a man's) hormones since they change from day to day. Vitamin E causes prostate cancer. Women w/o uteri do not need progesterone. Progestins and Progesterone are the same. The reference range for TSH is 0.45-5.5. IF you believe these myths and you can't figure out how you could help a patient without utilizing them, then you can't work for me unless you are willing to learn. I don't care how fast you are on a computer or how much PBM/Insurance inanity you can memorize. You have to be able to assess a patient by looking, listening, touching them and ordering/reviewing laboratory data. Then you have to be able to discontinue the crap that his/her doctors have shoveled onto them (out of lack of knowing what to do to cure the core cause), advise them in their diet and lifestyle (including exercise, sleep, meditation, relationships, supplements, etc.)
    • Anonymous
      It's refreshing to find another pharmacist with same mindset. It still amazes me that we don't have a health care system, but a sick care system. I also study homeopathic medicine which has been around a lot longer than allopathic medicine. I feel we do ourselves a disservice to our patients by not staying current in all aspects of health care. I am still a practicing pharmacist for 35 years. I have worked as a clinical pharmacy,pharmacy owner for 10 years and now in retail for 20 years. You don't see many pharmacist my age in the retail setting, I feel sometimes that some of the new arrogant pharmacy students think the older pharmacist should step aside,until they need our help with a common sense issue.
    • JillPonce
      MarkBurger, I concur with exactly every point you listed. And I am amazed to hear another pharmacist out there who believes exactly the way I do in those areas, which seems to be the minority. I'd love to work at your pharmacy!
    • JacquelinUlm
      Mark, you are an intelligent practitioner! These comments have hit the bullseye on every topic. Where are you?
    • Anonymous
      I will be 62 this year, having worked most of my yers in hospital pharmacy and now working on-call for 2 different retail chains (semi-retired). I'm often asked why don't I retire completely and give my space to a younger person. My answer has always been that if they can outwork me, I will walk away. Most of the younger generation want clinical positions, Monday thru Friday, no evenings or nights. The worst part is that most of them aren't as productive as I am...I work circles around them. This new generation leaves a lot to be desired...
    • Anonymous
      Have to agree. While I do generalize , a large chunk of the new generation pharmacists are so academically minded, but so very poor on application. Their productivity levels are also very poor. I too agree. I am going on 50 and work circles around most of the new grads. Remember new grads, the half life of knowledge unused is 6 months. I really do not see that the Pharmd's are any better equpped as pharmacists than a BPharm. This from working in many hospital and retail and owning my own business. You are only as good as the knowledge which you can apply.
    • DougBennett
      As a old pharmacist I appreciate the knowledge of the young ones, but I have a real problem with common sense or lack there of. Twice this past week I had to over ride the relatively new pharmacist's decision not to allow an unauthorized refill on a prescription. The patient had a current Rx for Lantus, but no refills on his syringes, which the young pharmacist refused to fill. Have we gotten to the point where only robots are coming out of school. I politely asked the pharmacist "is this insulin administered rectally, if so get your head out of the way."
    • Mr. SLefkow
      I've watched PharmD's at work and their computer savvy, as admirable as it is, is no better in the community pharmacy setting (read: Corner Drugstore) than the good techs I am privileged to be working with. Their "people" skills, however, as compared to mine, leave much to be desired. Competent? Yes. Impersonal? Mostly. Rushed? In the chains, unfortunately. I'm 85. Fifty-seven years behind the counter. I work three days/week (they'd like me to work five) in an independent that does three hundred a day, and I still find those moments to listen to the little old lady, the young mother, the honest questioner. I've learned to cut short those who just want to hear themselves talk or demand that "extra" bit of attention, and I do it in such a way as to make them understand that I'll give them all the time they need, but no more. At meetings or ConEd lectures I'll remind the occasional newbie RPh or PharmD complaining about the older pharmacists hogging the jobs that we're the reason they're earning (?) over one hundred thousand dollars a year. When pharmacists were at the top of the list of the most respected profession (still?), I was getting one hundred and a quarter a week and damned glad to get it. I wouldn't trade my fifty-seven years as "Doc" for any other profession. I've been both employee and employer and wore both hats with pride. Pharmacy has been good to me, and my generation, I'm sure, has been good to the profession in return.
    • Anonymous
      You nailed an important point. I find most of them so academic but so impersonal. I have worked retail and hospital and when I hear them interact with people and other professional I cringe.
    • BobKatz
      The reality is that whatever pharmacy degree you have does not matter if you do not keep current with your profession. The one course pharmacy schools do not offer is a course titled pharmacy in the real world. Give me a seasoned pharmacist anytime over recent graduates who are better prepared in handling the complexities of the profession.
    • Anonymous
      I noticed that all of the comments published said there was no bias or are about having respect for older pharmacists. I respect great pharmacists regardless of age or education level. I do not have respect for pharmacists who show up to work instead of practice pharmacy. Young or old, the practice of pharmacy is a privilege not a gravy train to ride until we get to retirement.
    • Anonymous
      I read all of the comments posted and agree with all of them. There is an age/credential bias in pharmacy, especially in the academic hospital setting where I work. Pharmacists without a residency are not considered for new positions unless they are in the central pharmacy. I recently became the director of a department after the retirement of our long term director. Although I was qualified for the job, the main reason I took it was to protect our staff from a new director in their late twenties who would know everything and not hesitate to prove it to the detriment of morale and our multiple RPhs. I enjoyed being a staff pharmacist but had a bad previous experience with a "fresh out of the box" director. Yes I understand the financial pressures that new practioners face and the need to "prove themselves". Do I trust them to dictate the remainder of my and my pharmacists career? No. By the way, I have a BSPharm, a PharmD and a residency and have practiced in a variety of settings for the past 33 years. In some ways I hold the Colleges accountable for the current glut of new pharmacists which ferments the desperate attitudes of some new grads. I feel it has interfered with the "natural" balance of new, mid career and "old" pharmacists in the work place. Just my 2 cents.
    • Anonymous
      I have practiced now for 38 years and am rapidly approaching retirement age. I graduated from Rutgers in 1976 and practiced acute care pharmacy exclusively all these years. After seeing the biblical "handwritting on the wall" a went back to school and received my PharmD in 2001 just so I could compete with the youngsters coming out of school. For the first 25 years of practice,I fared pretty well with just the BSPharm. I found the PharmD was valuable knowledge but experience was still the best teacher. I currently practice in a large institution and, am told, it took almost 2 years to fill my position. I work with many pharmacists of my own age group, some BSPharm, some PharmD, and find that many of the BSPharms are more knowledgable that the new breed of PharmD. Experience does matter !
    • Anonymous
      I am 53, working in a hospital pharmacy (which I really enjoy), and have two children in college. I can appreciate both the frustration of the older pharmacists and the younger pharmacists. I did go back to school for my PharmD a number of years ago; I knew then that there would soon be another way to differentiate new grads, and now that is the residency. Even with one year, you are second fiddle to the two year residency pharmacist! I also understand the worry associated with college debt, and the need to get that paid off. However, I am paying for my children's college, so all that debt is mine! So, even though I would like to think of even an early retirement (and would be glad to let a younger person step in :)), I will need to work to pay off their debt so they do not have that burden starting out in life. So, sometimes, older pharmacists have debt, too!
    • Anonymous
      Has anyone looked at social security ans how the stock market took my retirement?? I have to work past 65 as I am the end of baby boomers. Younger does not always mean brighter