Physicians as pharmacy owners

By Dr. Jassam

After a day spent entirely at the clinic, I returned home fatigued, lacking the inclination for extensive conversation, particularly given my previous restless night. I reclined on the couch in front of the TV, shutting my eyes, uncertain whether I drifted into a nap or remained in a half-awake state.

On that drowsy night, a promising, ambitious and potentially lucrative idea struck me, whether it could materialize into a project or not. The surroundings were hazy, perhaps just in my perspective, but I decided to share my thoughts on a profitable venture with some colleagues. This was especially pertinent as regulations became less clear, and boundaries blurred for everyone, be it doctors, pharmacists or other health professionals.

After some effort, I managed to gather five friends, each with their own clinic but closely interconnected. I conveyed, “If the current situation persists, sustaining our endeavors will become challenging. Therefore, we must explore alternative avenues for profit, especially considering the potential substantial returns from my proposed venture.”

One colleague interjected, proposing that we invest in a building, utilize part of it, and lease out the remainder. Another colleague added, “However, we face a small problem – a lack of capital.” Laughter ensued, acknowledging our shared reality of a capital deficit.

Another colleague suggested we purchase a house, lease it, and gradually expand by acquiring additional properties. While deemed a good idea, it was considered too slow.

I then proposed, “What if we open a pharmacy in close proximity to everyone? We could work there periodically, with each doctor dedicating a day. Since the conflict of interest is not a major constraint, and given the current intertwining of roles, we can also sell medications. We just need to ensure our patients exclusively use our pharmacy.”

After brief deliberation, my proposal gained approval, and we agreed that the wife of one of the colleagues, a qualified pharmacist, would handle all the necessary procedures to open the pharmacy and stock it with medications.

In what seemed like a fleeting moment, the pharmacy was officially opened. My initial shift wasn’t the first; it belonged to one of my colleagues. When my turn eventually arrived, I stood confidently, striving to locate medicines and gather their prices, utilizing various payment methods. With each patient, I took a few minutes to address any queries about their medications, sitting with them in a separate room to ensure confidentiality. I explained aspects of the treatment they might be unfamiliar with, including potential complications and side effects.

Some patients recognized me from their medical consultations and were pleased to see me in the pharmacy.

Towards the day’s end, a group of three well dressed people entered the pharmacy, introducing themselves as College of Pharmacists representatives. They brought a complaint from a nearby pharmacy, alleging that doctors were assuming the roles of pharmacists.

Curious, I asked, “What seems to be the problem?”

Their response was, ” you can not, It’s a conflict of interest.”

“I had thought that the conflict of interest had faded away”,

“Not for physicians”, they all replied at the same time

I probed further, asking, “What do you intend to do?”

Their reply was stern, “The pharmacy will be shut down, the pharmacist will be referred for investigation and all involved doctors will be referred to CPSO.”

In an attempt to protest, I raised my voice, only to glance around and find my wife was laughing.

As it turned out, it was merely a dream.