author / blogger


Pharma Police

Recently I went to collect a prescription at my local pharmacy.

This was my regular prescription for my migraines; the only medication that touches them. I have these migraines at least once a week, often for several days at a time and despite trying multiple relief methods (drugs drugs DRUGS, massage, heat pads, cold pads, getting my daith pierced..) nothing but this medication helps to minimise the pain. I only tell you this as a caveat to explain how vital this particular prescription is for me – it enables me to have some quality of life.

At this visit to the pharmacy I also wanted to put in a new prescription for a painkiller I've been prescribed for some new scary symptoms I've been having that I'm struggling to manage. When I visited the pharmacy on this particular occasion I was completely out of my migraine meds (the pharmacy had accidentally wiped my repeat prescriptions and rather than simply correct their mistake, I had to go back to my doctor to ask him to re-prescribe me the medication I was already prescribed for). This in itself is a big source of anxiety – knowing I don't have the medication I need when I need it is very frightening for someone who relies heavily on it. So, when I asked to pick up the prescription the pharmacy had text to tell me to collect, I was advised the pharmacist is on her lunch-break and I'd have to come back in an hour. Confusing enough as generally I don't have to see the pharmacist simply to collect something, but I wasn't in the mood to argue.

I then advised I wanted to put in a script for my new painkiller the Dr had prescribed. I was advised it wasn't in stock and wouldn't be in stock for another month at least. (!!!) I asked what could be done about that? Would I have to visit another pharmacy? Would I have to go back to my doctor? I was advised the pharmacy assistant “..could try and get it from a different supplier, but you look fine so why waste my time” (I repeat: !!!)

Needless to say I complained, after several hours of attempting to close my jaw which had fallen to the floor upon verbal impact.

I generally hate complaining about anything, but on this occasion I made an exception. Not because I want anyone to lose their job, or get a proverbial slap on the wrists (although a slap on the face was my primary desire in the moment), but because I don't want anyone else to experience the burning shame and humiliation that woman caused me for no apparent reason. Laziness? Weary after dealing with rude customers? Personality of a wet dish-cloth? Either way it doesn't matter why she spoke to me in that way; she shouldn't have.

It's important to remember that for many people visiting a pharmacy is just another anxiety filled off-shoot of visiting a doctor or the hospital. These are the people who supply often life-altering medication to vulnerable, often desperate patients.

Don't get me wrong, I know the general public are generally VILE. I've worked face to face, phone to phone, keyboard to keyboard with them most of my life; they are a living nightmare. Mostly. But if your job is to work with them, your responsibility is to maintain a professional attitude. Your job is to bite your tongue and grit your teeth and do whatever else is necessary inside your mouth cavity to ensure you treat them with respect – even if it sometimes feels they don't deserve it.

I did, and do deserve it, because all I wanted was medication I had been prescribed and require to help me live a 'normal' life.

The point of this rambly story I suppose is to remind patients that there should be no shame in requesting medication that allows you to function/feel better/*stay alive* – its as vital to us as water and air and Nutella.

For pharmacists or anyone who works alongside patients; please remember that even if we 'look fine' to you, we are face to face with you because we need you to facilitate the part of our lives that makes us look fine. I shouldn't need to waltz into the pharmacy in a hospital gown attached to a drip for you to 'approve' of me taking medication. You know nothing of my situation – only you do – you know that a Dr has advised I need medication to keep me alive. You are in a privileged position of having the ability to help make someone feel better – don't forgo that to make our lives more painful.

Also do not underestimate the tenacity of someone who lives with chronic pain. We are programmed to survive! How do you think we manage to look so 'fine' when we feel like death?

Kathleen NichollsComment