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Peterson: Pharmacy staples prompt fixation on fastener

Published: Friday, April 26, 2013 9:40 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 9:37 a.m. CDT

I’m sure the pharmacist has only the best interests of customers in mind when using the stapler, kind of like a mad scientist.

It makes sense for the pharmacist to staple shut the bag containing the medication with the medication’s instructions. Only one staple is needed. If there are multiple medications in one pickup, they all get stapled together along with the receipt. Only one staple is needed.

So if you have three medications to pick up, that should be a maximum of four staples, if you believe the receipt should be stapled to the bag in the first place and if all the bags should be stapled together.

Usually before the transaction is complete, six or seven, or even eight, staples are used, securing the bags from being breached by anyone, including the customer.

Pharmacists and their technicians love their staplers.

And I can understand that, as I have my own staplers – a desktop stapler for papers and a toolbox stapler for construction projects. I once even had an electric shop stapler, and I can’t think of many tools I liked more. It worked with such ease, stapling batts of insulation to studs, sheeting to windows, signs to walls and tablecloths to picnic tables.

Sometimes I would use the electric stapler as a toy, shooting staples for target practice at an object across the room. I know, I know. I could have put an eye out. But staples are lightweight and simply do not generate the speed to even break skin. They make a mess, and you might step on one.

Now, power nail guns are an altogether different matter. I’ve never owned one or used one, but I’ve seen enough in operation on the job and in the movies to know that gun means gun, and real damage can be done. Skin could be broken. An eye really could be put out. And in more than one movie, a nail gun has been used as a weapon to nail someone’s hand or foot to a wall or floor. It didn’t take a lot of acting to convince me that the pain was real.

I’m not sure I would trust myself with a nail gun, for that matter. Too much power, too much room for error. I’ve smashed my thumb plenty of times with hammers, so odds are I would nail my thumb to a board at least once over the course of my life. And I don’t want to walk into the emergency room with a two-by-four nailed to my hand. “Uh, yeah, ouch, could you remove the nail?”

Too many questions, too many giggles. Oh, and yes, I’ve had a tetanus shot in the past five years, thank you. I’ve impaled and cut myself regularly enough to keep my shots current, going back 30 years to that incident with the chainsaw and my knee. I didn’t see that one coming.

And after nailing myself to a board, I might need a prescription for pain medication to get through those first few days. Medication that is stapled a couple of times over in a paper bag.

Why so many staples when one would do?

These pharmacy chains are nationwide, with many thousands of stores, and millions of prescriptions filled every year. And when you start adding up excessive stapling, you’re talking about a major expense with such a forgettable item. A single store might save a hundred dollars a year in staples if it became a stapling minimalist. Multiply that by thousands of stores, and you are talking about real money.

Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t just rip open the bags of medication that are stapled together. I need to remove each staple by hand, and I really should use my staple remover, come to think of it, but that’s in another room. So I am removing each staple, with my fingernail prying it loose. And it’s not as easy as you’d think, it being just a flimsy staple. They really attach themselves to paper. I’m not a rip-and-tear kind of guy.

I appreciate pharmacists and technicians not wanting medications slipping out of bags, but one staple will secure the medication. Trust me. I’ve had to fight to remove those little suckers.

Going to the pharmacy can be a pain because they just can’t seem to get staffing down to cover the really busy periods when everyone seems to be there at the same time. You can wait in line for 15 or 20 minutes just to place your order.

I don’t relish the wait, but I don’t mind it either. I can entertain myself.

But what I do mind are the staples, knowing that when I get home, I’m going to have to extract them before I can put my medications away. Just one staple, please.

• Dick Peterson, who lives in Woodstock, is a mental-health advocate, freelance writer and a former Northwest Herald Opinion Page editor. He can be contacted at dickpeterson76@gmail.com.

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