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    Do Clothes Make the Pharmacist?

    “You can’t judge a book by its cover” the old adage goes, but in this fast-paced world we pharmacists get pretty good at it . . . or so we might think!

    My 28-year-old son, Philip, is married and the father of our oldest grandchild. He also carries the family plague, diabetes. Type 1 diabetes was diagnosed when he was 17 years old, and he has worn an insulin pump since then. He lives in Pittsburgh and works for an app development company. A typical city kid, he bikes to work about two miles from his apartment.

    In a jam

    One day Phil called me at my store, and he sounded distressed.

    “Hey, Dad, I’m in a jam,” he said. “I changed the cannula this morning on my pump, and it’s clogged now. My blood sugar is really trending up, and I’m afraid to bike home. I stopped at a local drugstore near work and asked to buy a couple of insulin syringes, so I could pull some insulin from my reservoir until I can get home and get a new set. The pharmacist refused, saying they only sell the entire box. Dad, I’d never use up a whole box, but the pharmacist said that is their policy. Could you give them a call?”

    Pennsylvania law allows pharmacists to dispense syringes without a prescription, at the discretion of the pharmacist. I called the pharmacy, identified myself as a fellow pharmacist, and explained the difficult situation Phil was in. The pharmacist said he understood and would be glad to sell him a 10-pack of insulin syringes. Phil went back in, made his purchase, and thanked the pharmacist for understanding.

    Appearance matters

    That night I called Phil to make sure all was well. I also told him, “Hey, kid, you are a 28-year-old guy with a 4-month-old beard, long hair, jeans, and a sweater; riding a bike . . . walking into a pharmacy. I’m sure the pharmacist has denied a lot of people who look like you the very same service you requested.”

    One of my old pharmacist colleagues once quipped, “Ever since they made syringes easy to buy without a prescription, we have had a rash of grandmas with diabetes!” One’s appearance is about the only gauge available, and sometimes we make poor decisions based solely on how somebody looks.


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