The medical field might be ever-changing, but Grant County pharmacists Carl Amstad and Greg Armstrong remain passionate about their jobs and their enjoyment in helping other people.

The two pharmacists, who work at Len’s Drug in John Day, have more than 85 years of experience and shared their observations over the years, such as increasing prices for prescriptions, improved medicine and technological changes.

Armstrong said the price of medicine has changed drastically over time.

“Thirty (or) 40 years ago, there wasn’t anybody who had prescription insurance, and back then, things were priced fairly reasonable,” Armstrong said. “It seems that when insurance became the norm, prescription drug prices went off the charts. Back in 1980, there was hardly anything that sold for a dollar a pill, or $30 a month.”

He said the days of $5 prescriptions are long gone.

Amstad said, in his opinion, the medical field focuses more on money than on helping people nowadays.

“There are a lot of people who can’t or don’t have insurance, and if they don’t have insurance, they can’t afford the prescriptions,” Amstad said. “I think the pharmaceutical companies way back when were more interested in the health of people. Nowadays it’s just the bottom dollar. The thought process has really changed.”

Technology also changed, from typewriters to modern desktop computers. Armstrong said, back in the day, they put typewriter prongs on the label for the medicine bottles. They also wrote every receipt out by hand.

“We progressed through the different systems down to the eight-inch floppy disk,” said Armstrong.

Over the years, they have also seen the medicine for blood pressure and diabetes greatly improve.

Both were recognized as Veterans in Pharmacy at the 2019 Oregon State Pharmacy Association annual convention this month for their years of service to the industry.

“I’m surprised that I was even picked,” said Amstad. “I wasn’t even aware until Greg showed me. I knew I have been doing it for that long, but I never thought about it.”

Armstrong said the award makes him feel old because it recognizes his legacy and longevity. His daughter Tilli Bjornberg currently works as the pharmacy manger at Len’s Drug.

“The main thing for me is that I enjoy the people,” Amstad said. “To me, that is the most positive thing about the pharmaceutical industry. The interactions with the people is what’s worthwhile.”


Rudy Diaz is a reporter for the Blue Mountain Eagle. Contact him at or 541-575-0710.

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