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Famous Pharmacist in Broadus

April 14, 2020
Broadus, Mont., pharmacist John Lane stopped dispensing birth control pills to his customers in Powder River County, Mont. (File photo)

April 13, 2020

I thought I was hot on the trail of Montana’s most famous pharmacist.  Pharmacists can be bright, clever, endearing people.  Think of some pharmacists you know.  I think of the young man—an actor—who has been pleasing audiences at Billings Studio Theater.  He’s bright, talented, yes!  Famous?  Well, yes!  Well, not, perhaps.  Fame doesn’t come to pharmacists (or radiologists, or lab technicians, etc. etc.), as a rule.  However, many people are fond of their pharmacist.  I like my pharmacist, a helpful person at Osco Drug.  She gives me my flu shot every year.

Fame?  One vice president—Hubert Humphrey—was a pharmacist.  His name may not be well known in every household, but he helped create the legislation in the late 1940s for instituting Medicare.  A good guy.  Like a pharmacist.

I digress.

My tale starts in 2002 or 2003 when I attended a pharmacist’s meeting in Billings at one of the big hotels on the West End of town.  We were promised continuing education credit if we would take drug therapy management training.  The program was hosted by UM School of Pharmacy educators, like UM professor Vince Colucci.  

I thought I was hot stuff.  At that time, I had recently published a scholarly paper with professor Mike Rivey entitled, “Combined Therapy with an ACE Inhibitor and Angiotensin Receptor Blocker in Chronic Heart Failure.”  The ink was still fresh on my doctor of pharmacy degree and on my certificate of board certification in pharmacotherapy.  How could I resist attending such a meeting?  It was my passion. Also, I needed the CE credits!

At the meeting, seated to my right, one row behind me, was a winsome and charming young pharmacist.  Turns out he was from the Eastern Montana town of Broadus.  I had a distinctly good impression of him.  He was spontaneous and friendly. We chatted about rural pharmacy practice.

Jump ahead a half-dozen years.  By then I had retired from the Public Health Service and I was working at a home infusion pharmacy.

I happened to read in the Billings Gazette that a Broadus pharmacist had gained national attention by refusing to fill birth control pills on religious grounds.  He had been reported to the state Board of Pharmacy who declined to punish him because Montana has no laws or rules against refusing to fill a prescription.  He didn’t just decline to fill oral contraceptives, but he refused to hand over the prescription to another pharmacist who would. Women’s rights organizations were outraged.

I marveled.  Although I have refused to fill prescriptions a few times during my 23-year career, it was not because of religious convictions.  No.  I refused faked or altered prescriptions a couple of times, and once I refused because the patient and I both knew it was the wrong thing to do.  “I won’t do it,” I said.  In no case did anyone report me to the Board of Pharmacy or anyone else.  One knows when one is right to refuse.  Doesn’t happen often.  In my case I didn’t get any attention, nationally or locally either.  That’s why I marveled that the pharmacist from Broadus was famous in a profession that doesn’t get much fame.  Or any notice at all.

These days, during the Covid-19 pandemic, P. and I are living in our van in Eastern Montana.  Because we must stay away from our house for at least two weeks, we rattle around from small town to small town, returning to Miles City at night to live in our van DOWN BY THE RIVER.

Today, we drove to Broadus.  Our quest for a great piece of pie didn’t work out.  We couldn’t find the restaurant, although we drove up one street of Broadus and down. 

Finally, I spotted the IGA with pharmacy.  “I’ll ask about the good pie,” I said, jumping from the driver’s seat.

Within, I quickly found the pharmacy.  Two very attractive women stood behind the counter.  The whole pharmacy was perhaps 15 feet wide, 4 feet deep.  One woman, who turned out to be the pharmacist, was talking on the phone.  She hung up and asked me how she could help me.  I told her I was a retired pharmacist, interested in meeting a pharmacist I met from Broadus.  A man who had refused to fill a prescription for birth control pills.  She gave me the pharmacist’s name.  She said the he moved to Hot Springs.  I said I hoped to meet him.  I said I liked met him years ago, and I wanted to meet him again to see if I still really liked him.

The two women quickly convulsed with laughter.  Always great to connect with other pharmacists. I couldn’t tell how they regarded him.

P. and I departed Broadus in silence.  I suggested we drive to Hot Springs, a town near Kalispell.  To look up the pharmacist.  To see if I still really liked him.  P. was enthusiastic because we needed to wait four days before returning home.  Because Covid-19 quarantine.  Hot Springs seemed like a great destination.

Then I checked the internet to check for identity of the pharmacist from Broadus who had refused to fill birth control pill prescriptions.  This was John Lane, a name different from that of the pharmacist and technician in the IGA.  An article with accompanying photo confirmed his identity for me.  I have a weakness for people with gaps between front teeth, and I recognized him.  Trouble was, Mr. Lane was no longer in Montana.  He now works in Hot Springs, South Dakota, according to the Montana Board of Pharmacy website.

I guess I won’t find out if I still like Mr. Lane as much as before.  Still, he is arguably famous at all, for that. 

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One Comment
  1. Blaine Ackley permalink

    What a great post and the adventure continues. I know a pharmacist and I love him. He is such a swell guy. I am not learning to play It Don’t Come Easy on my ukulele. What a great song. As the Grateful Dead used to say, Keep on Truckin’, Keep on Social distancing, :)B

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