Pharmacy memes. You’ve seen them when scrolling through your Instagram feed, or when you ended up in some weird nerd corner of the internet by accident while you were trying to search for the ID number of your local CVS so you could leave a scathing Yelp review the likes of which the world has never seen. You squinted, furrowed your brow, and puzzled madly over what the heck they meant, your temper rising as you chewed over the infuriating concept of references existing on the internet that you don’t understand. How dare everyone else not cater to your specific subset of knowledge?
Well, the agony is over, fearless web surfer. Because, in honor of Pharmacy Week we’ve chosen ten of the most liked pharmacy memes from the @pharmacymemes Instagram account and asked a real-life pharmacist—a colleague’s family member—to explain them in layman’s terms. Equipped with this knowledge, you’ll never come across a pharmacy meme you can’t decipher again. And that’s what’s important here.
This super smooth pick up line, courtesy of The Big Bang Theory’s bowl cut extraordinaire, Howard Wolowitz, has its origins in run of the mill medical gear, according to our expert. “BD is a brand that makes needles for various insulin pens, and they come in various needle diameters, including ‘nano’ and ‘ultra-fine.’” Thank goodness they’re not named after astrological signs.
Nobody wants to believe they’re as imbecilic as Michael Scott. But the truth is that many people don’t recognize that there’s no difference between brands and generics and thus are opposed to the former – until confronted with the price. “Brand medications are a bajillion times more expensive than generics, and despite the fact that most generics are identical to the branded product, many people complain that the generic is not as effective until they learn the brand equivalent costs one million dollars.” Yes, those numbers are just general estimates, but you get the idea.
In this meme, Willy Wonka’s grinning visage offers profoundly revealing insight into what pharmacists do. “When prescriptions come into community pharmacies, it is the pharmacist’s job to make sure we’re dispensing the medication not just with the strength and administration instructions the doctor wanted, but that the strength and administration instructions actually make sense. A doctor can write anything they darn well please on a prescription pad, but that doesn’t make it a safe or appropriate dose.” Or even a real dose.
Even the Most Interesting Man in the World can’t make pharmacy law… Interesting. But pharmacists need to know it anyway. “Pharmacy law is tedious and boring but necessary since every state requires you to pass their law exam in order to get licensed. And also because you do need to know what you are legally allowed to do, and required to do, and what you can’t do. Pharmacists have gone to jail for violating these laws.” Doesn’t make the studying any less of a grind, though. It’s safe to say that most pharmacists prefer Dos Equis.
“As part of aforementioned pharmacy law, periodically pharmacies have to count EVERYTHING that is in their stock. I’ve never had to take part in this, but apparently it’s painful and can take days, especially in hospital settings where there are a lot of drugs on hand.” Sort of like how Nedd Stark has to spend weeks counting up all his fox pelts in anticipation of the pending White Walker invasion.
“This is true, especially in the first 4-6 weeks after starting therapy, due to the fact that the pathophysiology of mental health disease states like depression are not fully understood. The irony!” See, even pharmacists are baffled by the endless and horrific lists of side effects in drug commercials.
This meme strikes right at the heart of the general public’s most fundamental misunderstanding of pharmacists’ jobs. “People think that pharmacists’ job is literally just to count pills, put them in a bottle, and put a label on it. If that was true, you’d be dead because we make sure your doctor wrote the prescription right, we make sure that your medication will not interact with any other medication you’re taking, we make sure you get the most benefit from the medication by counseling you on how to take it appropriately, and we make sure that the pills in the bottle are the pills that you’re supposed to be getting and not someone else’s.” Got that?
No, that’s not some obscure foreign language – it’s just a doctor’s handwriting. “It may be a stereotype that physicians have bad handwriting, but stereotypes have basis in fact,” our expert puts it diplomatically. And contending with doctors’ chicken scratches, as it turns out, is a common, built-in aspect of pharmacists’ jobs. “When I rotated through the FDA, I was in a department that approved brand names. Part of the job was to make sure brand names of new drugs weren’t too similar to existing ones so they wouldn’t be confused with one another. They would have students scribble out the names in their best doctor’s scrawl to see how easily they could be misread as other drug names.”
Ah, the old “One does not simply” meme. Alas, there’s nothing simple about filling a prescription when a patient is convinced whatever they have on their phone will suffice in lieu of a hard copy. “If the patient doesn’t have a hard copy of their prescription, the pharmacy has to get it directly from the doctor’s office via fax or electronically, or over the phone from the doctor.” Wouldn’t you be miffed if you showed up somewhere to buy a priceless painting but all the seller had was a low-res photo of it on his or her phone? That’s how pharmacists feel in these scenarios.
“This may be my favorite one,” our expert declares, and it’s not just because of a burning Matrix fandom. Unfortunately, it’s all too relatable. “People get SO MAD when they call to refill a prescription and are informed that they don’t have any refills left, meaning they have to get in touch with their doctor for a new prescription. This can often take time, so they can’t always get their Rx immediately filled. If there’s one thing people in line at the pharmacy hate, it’s not getting what they want IMMEDIATELY. Because pharmacists are nice, we will often call the doctor’s office FOR the patient and see if they want to verbally renew the prescription. But often they require the patient to go see them for an office visit and that makes people VERY CRANKY. This could all be averted if patients took two seconds to look at their pill bottle.”
Now that you’re in the meme-mindset, we want to see what your favorite meme is and why! Share your favorite #pharmeme by linking to it in the comments section below or via email by Friday, October 27 for a chance to win one of four $50 giftcards!