It's not that often that I can point to one specific event in my life that wound up triggering other events, but in the case of my job in pharmaceuticals, I can. I can remember exactly when I decided that I would not work for this company any more.

I was in one of the pharmacies, I believe in Hollywood, making small talk with the pharmacist since we both knew there really wasn't a whole lot work related to talk about that we hadn't both heard a thousand times before. So we were just basically shooting the breeze. He had to interrupt our conversation to deal with a customer who had just come into the store: a somewhat typical little old lady with a prescription from her doctor. She seemed concerned with how much her medication was going to cost so the pharmacist looked it up and gave her the price.

The price he gave her was apparently quite a bit higher than she was expecting, and from her response and her overall appearance it looked like the amount of money involved was going to have a severe impact on her budget. She seemed really concerned about having to spend this much money on her medication.

In an attempt to get the price down to something more affordable, she asked the pharmacist if he could substitute a generic version of the drug. The pharmacist took another look at the prescription and as it turned out, the doctor had checked the little box on the prescription slip that said "no generics". The pharmacist then had to explain to his customer that he could not do that because the doctor had checked the box forbidding it.

The woman wound up having to fork over the price of the brand name product, and she left the store clearly upset. We could only speculate on exactly what this meant to her, but it is probably not too much of a stretch of the imagination to see where it could have meant she would have cat food for dinner rather than people food.

The problem for me was the fact that as I stood there in my nice suit, having just recently gotten out of my nice new air-conditioned company car, all paid for by the company, I realized that one of the things the company expected me to do was to convince the doctors to check that little box on the prescription slip with every prescription they write. This particular patient had not been purchasing something from my company, but that really didn't matter. I was one of the people supposedly working hard to create the situation that was going to make it more difficult for this woman and others like her to live a decent life.

(Yes, I realize the question of quality of generics compared to the "name brands." For a particular product, maybe there is a difference in the two -- just as the store brand of a consumer product may not be exactly the same as its brand name counterpart. Like any other financial decision adults make just about every day of their lives, whether or not to spend the extra money for a name brand drug is nobody's business but the person spending the money.)

That was it for me. I decided right then and there to give my notice, which as I recall I did that day or within a matter of days, probably as soon as I could get hold of the guy I worked for. I was Goddamned if I was going to be a part of something as lousy as this. I remember thinking that if I needed the money so badly that I would in effect take it away from little old ladies, somebody might as well shoot me.