The Business of Pharmacy Podcast™
March 20, 2023

Lawfully Addicted: Chain Pharmacy's Role in Our Opioid Epidemic | Ray Carlson, R.Ph., Author

Lawfully Addicted: Chain Pharmacy's Role in Our Opioid Epidemic | Ray Carlson, R.Ph., Author

The opioid crisis has been a major public health issue in the United States for years. In a recent podcast, host Mike Koelzer interviewed pharmacist Raymond Carlson, RPh, who has written a book, "Lawfully Addicted: Chain Pharmacy's Role in Our Opioid Epidemic," addressing the role of chain pharmacies and pharmacists in the opioid crisis. The interview covers various topics, including the non-compliance with dispensing laws, the importance of professional associations, the need for pharmacists to be more active in their profession, and the influence of business models on independent pharmacies.

Chain Pharmacies and the Opioid Crisis

During the interview, Ray Carlson argues that the opioid crisis could have been mitigated had pharmacists adhered to OBRA 90, a federal law designed to prevent the abuse and misuse of prescription drugs. He criticizes chain pharmacies for diminishing the value of dispensing and introducing metrics that make it difficult for pharmacists to follow the law. Ray also calls for greater scrutiny on retail chain pharmacies, similar to the level of scrutiny applied to compounding pharmacies after the New England Compounding Tragedy.

Lack of Representation for Chain Pharmacists

The speakers discuss the lack of representation for chain pharmacists and the impact this has on the profession. They argue that without a national association representing a significant percentage of the profession, the voices and concerns of chain pharmacists are not being heard. They emphasize the importance of increased engagement from chain pharmacists and a stronger focus on service rather than profits in the pharmacy profession.

The Importance of Professional Associations and Active Involvement

Ray highlights the importance of professional organizations and the need for pharmacists to be active members. He acknowledges that some may not like his outspoken approach but remains committed to advocating for the proper practice of pharmacy. The passage emphasizes the value of free markets and the power of professional associations in influencing legislation, stressing the need for pharmacists to take an active role in their profession.

Independent Pharmacies and Business Models

Lastly, the speakers discuss the influence of chain pharmacies on the business models of independent pharmacies, with Ray arguing that independent pharmacies have had to adapt to survive in a market dominated by chains that prioritize volume over patient care. They also address the role of controlled substances in the survival of independent pharmacies and the need for pharmacists to adhere to the provisions of OBRA 90.


The conversation between Ray Carlson and Mike Koelzer sheds light on the issues within the pharmacy industry, particularly the role of chain pharmacies and pharmacists in the opioid crisis. It highlights the importance of adherence to dispensing laws, active involvement in professional associations, and a focus on service over profits. By addressing these concerns, the pharmacy profession can work towards mitigating the opioid crisis and improving patient care.

The Business of Pharmacy Podcast™ is an interesting and entertaining weekly podcast discussion on the business of pharmacy. Hosted by Mike Koelzer, an independent pharmacist in Grand Rapids, Michigan, each episode covers a new topic relevant to pharmacists and pharmacy owners. Listen to a new episode every Monday morning.