Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

November 27, 2012

RANDOM THOUGHTS: Human events are recycled

By Dorothy Copus Brush
Chronicle correspondent

CROSSVILLE — Our daughter in Colorado told us about the new law on marijuana. The state already was allowing the product to be sold legally for medical use but the new law broadens it for recreational users. Those selling the drug started posting signs that they were a marijuana dispensary.

She was amused to see a sign at a pet store stating, “Cat Nip Dispensary.”

An email from Jan Stewart, the granddaughter of Walter “Buck” Stewart, thanked me for the story on Stewart. She said she learned things she didn’t know because “It’s our history, but when we’re young, we frequently don’t have the frame of reference to take in the importance of what shapes our lives. Thank you for being a walking, talking history book.”

Many of my columns remind readers of forgotten past history. A recent CNN program did just that for me. In 1978, Thanksgiving Day fell on November 23 but on November 18, 1978, the world learned about the horrors of Jonestown where 931 people committed mass suicide by taking cyanide. The shocking details cast a pall over Thanksgiving Day that year.

One column mentioned the Cuban Missile Crisis which happened at Halloween time. As I read about that scary event I learned there were several Soviet submarines off the Cuban coast. One was outfitted with a nuclear bomb which could be used if three top officials agreed. At the height of the crisis two were ready to fire but the third man refused.

This week I learned from a review of a 2004 book that the same thing had happened in the Soviet Union. A man named Petroff was in charge of the nuclear bomb when he saw a missile headed for Russia. Tension mounted but again Petroff refused to turn the switch. Two presidents, Kennedy and Reagan, were helped by two Russian men who refused to destroy our world.

Recently the column on the history of Vicks and Vaseline noted that Vicks was made by a pharmacist in the 1890s. He used trial and error in finding something to help his son’s “croupy cough” and explained, “In those days pharmacists combined art and science in their practice of making medications for patients.”

Barely a week passed after that column until headlines appeared stating that pharmacists are still using that method in these days. The publicity started with an outbreak of fungal meningitis in patients who had received steroids for pain. The steroids came from the New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts. Further investigation found the center violated the rules of sterile conditions.

Compounding pharmacies mix customized medications based on doctor’s instructions to meet a particular patient’s need. The pharmacist is expected to work with raw chemicals, powders and specialized equipment in a scrupulously “clean to extreme” area.

For too long state boards of pharmacy have operated in a legal gray area between state and federal laws. Tennessee’s Board is assigned the job of monitoring those engaged in preparing these special medications. The state does not require a license for these people so there is no way to check how many of the more than 10,000 pharmacists in the state fill these special prescriptions. There are only five state inspectors to oversee that the rules and regulations are being followed.

Recycling is not new. Human events are recycled again and again.

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Dorothy Copus Brush is a Fairfield Glade resident and Crossville Chronicle staffwriter whose column is published each Wednesday. She may be reached at