I like New Jersey. I've lived in New Jersey most of my adult life. I grew up in The Garden State; attended grammar, junior, and high school here; did undergraduate work at Rutgers, The State University; and graduated from Rutgers College of Pharmacy, New Jersey's only pharmacy school. I owned and operated two retail pharmacies located in New Jersey and currently work in an office building directly opposite Giants Stadium and the Meadowlands Sports Complex, two of New Jersey's most famous landmarks. I have lived in six New Jersey counties over the years and have paid New Jersey state taxes for the past 40-plus years. I guess you can say that New Jersey has been good to me and my family, and, politics aside, I've enjoyed living in the state. But a recent event has got the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end.
The other day I picked up a newsletter that was apparently sent only to New Jersey residents who belong to AARP. I always thought that AARP did a creditable job for its membership, whose vast majority is well over the age of 50 and very concerned about their health care, which brings me to why I am so upset with AARP and the State of New Jersey.
In the latest issue of AARP NJ (www.aarp.org/NJ) is a Q&A column with Assemblywoman Linda Greenstein (D-Dist. 14). Greenstein boasts in the column that she was the prime sponsor of legislation that created the New Jersey Prescription Drug Retail Price Registry. She explains that the "registry provides a list of the 150 most frequently prescribed drugs and how much they cost at pharmacies across the state." The idea is that consumers can either go online or call an 800 number to determine which pharmacies in their neighborhood carry their drug(s) for the lowest price. I started to spit up bile when I read this. Here is an example of another typical politician who has total disregard for the health and welfare of her constituency. As always, it is all about price. And, by running this column, AARP--which is supposed to be in the forefront of health care for seniors--is tacitly endorsing this piece of legislation.
I am certain that neither Linda Greenstein nor Jim Dieterle, AARP's state director, has any idea of the potentially fatal harm they are perpetuating on consumers by endorsing such a program. By reducing life-saving medications to a commodity, they are encouraging consumers to throw all caution to the wind concerning serious interactions that are caught by pharmacists every day. Without full medication histories, it is impossible for one pharmacy to ascertain the level of interactions that may be taking place as a result of prescriptions purchased at another pharmacy.
I immediately wrote to both Ms. Greenstein and Mr. Dieterle, expressing my distaste for their endorsement of such a law. Of course, I've received no response. Unfortunately, what is happening in New Jersey is probably not an isolated example. As we begin the presidential election process, we will undoubtedly hear a lot of empty promises and illogical ideas regarding health care from both candidates. Now is the time for all of us to step up to the plate to voice our opinions, because regardless of which side of the political fence you are on, what is happening in New Jersey certainly won't stay in New Jersey.
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