Magazine article Drug Topics

Remember That 100-Foot Ex-President

Magazine article Drug Topics

Remember That 100-Foot Ex-President

Article excerpt


It surprises me sometimes how much wisdom can be gained from late-night television. I grew up in the era of the original Saturday Night Live, and while the Coneheads, "Cheeseburger ... cheeseburger," Mr. Bill, and the show's other memorable inventions have left unique marks on popular culture, I think the lesson of the 100-foot-tall Jimmy Carter is the one that has stuck with me the most over the years.

Its source was a skit that aired shortly after the 1979 Three Mile Island disaster. In the SNL spoof, Jimmy Carter visits the nuclear reactor and is exposed to a massive amount of radiation. Rumors run rampant that he is now 100 feet tall, and a press conference is called to address the situation.

"Is it true that the president is 100 feet tall?" asks a reporter.

"Absolutely not!" says the spokesman.

"Is the president 90 feet tall?"

"No comment," comes the instant response. The point? What you learn depends on the questions you ask.

Do they or don't they?

I kept this in mind during a recent e-mail exchange with the director of public relations for CVS, the country's second-largest drugstore chain, A story had caught my eye about a pharmacist who was fired from his job, and while I wasn't sure whether it was particularly newsworthy, one thing did grab my attention. The story said he had left his store in the middle of a 14-hour shift.

You read that right. Fourteen hours. I thought that might be my story - the recklessness of expecting employees to work for 14 hours straight in a job where they cannot make a single mistake. I wrote to the PR man and asked whether this was normal CVS policy. Here's what he said:

"Our policy is to adhere to state-specific regulations regarding work breaks. We have standard operating procedures in place to support pharmacists' ability to take breaks in accordance with regulations."

Sounds pretty good, except that I seemed to remember something about North Carolina, where this incident took place, setting the number of hours a pharmacist could work at 12 a day.

The plot thickens

Sure enough, a little research led me to this, from the North Carolina Board of Pharmacy website:

"A permit holder shall not require a pharmacist to work longer than 12 continuous hours per workday, A pharmacist working longer than 6 continuous hours per workday shall be allowed during that time period to take a 30 -minute meal break and 1 additional 15 -minute break. …

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