JP At Large Cut Loose. My Reflections On The First Great Pharmacy Writer.

There was a time when I hated Drug Topics, the pharmacy trade magazine pretty much everyone in the profession is familiar with. I mean seriously hated it. Every time it was delivered to my store it invariably ended up being leaved through, cussed at, and hurled towards the garbage. What burned my ass about the mag most during of the era of George Bush The Lesser was the incredible platform they had earned over the years, a magazine delivered to and read by almost every pharmacy employee in the country,  and how they were in the process of just blowing it. The magazine got smaller every year. It was printed less frequently. The writing....was bad. Really bad. Here's an actual example pulled from my little blog garden's archives. Keep in mind this was the lead paragraph of a news story:

Can metered-dose inhalers containing flunisolide, triamcinolone, metaproterenol, pirbuterol, albuterol and ipratropium in combination, cromolyn, and nedocromil be phased out because they harbor ozone-depleting substances? If there are alternate products that provide the same benefits as these drugs, they are nonessential and can be removed from the market by, say, Dec. 31, 2009, after a transition period. So proposed the FDA in the June 11 Federal Register. The agency said it would hold a public meeting to discuss this matter. For now, please send your comments to the FDA by Aug. 10.

Reading that hurts my eyes to this very day.

It wasn't only witnessing the self-destruction of what was once the main communication channel for pharmacy that stuck in my craw. It was knowing that I could improve it. If I could only get a shot at writing for those guys, I knew.... KNEW... I could be a part of its renaissance. But I also knew the chances of breaking into the world of actual paid print writing were long and hard. I had even sent Drug Topics a Viewpoint piece once and had heard nothing in reply. So I continued to seethe. Another dip into the archives:

Apparently Pharmacy Has A Code Of Ethics. Who Knew? 
Not me. But there it was in black and white in the latest issue of the trade magazine Drug Topics. The code of ethics by the way, was by far the most interesting thing in that rag, Jim Plagakis being the exception that proves the rule. Why Jim continues to do the clowns that think we'd be interested to read about drugstores in the suburbs on Atlanta putting in generators and publishes statements like "Tylenol was one of the top acetaminophen products suggested" the favor of writing for them baffles me.

Name another acetaminophen product.

Quick. C'mon. No Googling.

See my point? Drug Topics hurts my eyes, and if it weren't for Jim Plagakis and the curiosity aroused by seeing an alleged code of ethics that governs my profession, I might have had to try to gouge them out this Christmas Eve to stop the pain.

Jim had been writing a column for the magazine since I was a zit-faced frat boy who didn't know which end of a spatula to count with. He was the last echo of what they used to be. Kind of like Christiane Amanpour at CNN. And unbeknownst to me he had noticed this angry little monkey man and his blog. Drug Topics was looking for someone to write an op-ed for them, and Jim brought me to their attention. When they balked at the, how do we put it, periodic immaturity of what I was posting to the web, Jim assured them that I could write like a grownup when the situation called for it.

So one day I got an email from Jim Plagakis asking if I was interested in writing an article for the magazine. For those of you not in the profession I'll tell you this was the equivalent of Paul McCartney taking an interest in your garage band and asking if you'd be interested in signing to his record label. And so it began:

The idea came to me while I was waiting for my weekly Andy Rooney fix. I had long ago decided that I can't just tune into the last segment of 60 Minutes to catch the ruminations of the cranky old grandfather I never had. That would be cheating, like reading Drug Topics solely for "JP at Large."

That was the first paragraph of the first article I ever wrote for Drug Topics. I was so proud of myself for getting in that JP reference.

The rest my friends, is pharmacy wordsmithing history. I have proven both myself and Jim right. I got my shot, and I HAVE had a part in moving that magazine towards where it should be. Drug Topics is a  better read today than back when it was breaking the news that Tylenol is a popular brand of acetaminophen. And you know what? My awesome columns are part of the reason why.

This isn't a happy post though, because there is a sad ending to this for Jim. He has been let go from Drug Topics, and in a way that has left him hurt and feeling insulted. That breaks my heart, as he doesn't deserve to be made to feel that way. He carried that publication through the time it was...there is no other word, awful. And to not be given the chance to say goodbye to his many fans reminds me of how they cut off Frank Sinatra's speech when he was accepting a lifetime achievement Grammy.

Paul McCartney, Christiane Amanpour, Frank Sinatra. Have I made the way I feel about Jim clear?

It won't be the same next month when I'm struggling to find something to say before deadline the way I always do, and I can't imagine it ever will be. There'll be a tinge of sadness with every article zapped to the magazine from now on. A little emptiness you can't fill with words.

I wish it had ended better than this.
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JP At Large Cut Loose. My Reflections On The First Great Pharmacy Writer.
JP At Large Cut Loose. My Reflections On The First Great Pharmacy Writer.
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