Buying drugs in Ireland is a lot more difficult than in the states.  In the U.S., I could walk into a drug store, a grocery store, a convenience store, almost anywhere, really, and buy a wide selection of pharmaceuticals.  For example, I could peruse a variety of types of pain relievers (aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, etc.) and a variety of name brands and generics for each type, even in a place like a truck stop.  About the only things you can’t buy almost anywhere are prescription drugs and some cold and allergy meds (because they can be used in making methamphetamine).

Here, however, even something as basic as ibuprofen is only available at a pharmacy (also sometimes called a chemist here in Ireland), where you go to the counter and request it.  Not only that, but when I want ibuprofen, I can now only buy it as Nurofen here.  Until recently, some chemists had a generic brand, but they’ve since stopped making it, so now there is just the one much more expensive name-brand choice, and it’s only available in drug stores.  Actually, it’s not even available in all drug stores.  Boots is the name of a chain of pharmacies in the U.K. and Ireland and they have shops in several locations around Cork.  At their store in Mahon Point, however, they haven’t gotten their pharmacy license or something, so they can’t actually sell anything as strong as ibuprofen.  Shampoo, yes, drugs, no.  It’s a drug store that doesn’t sell drugs.

I am just getting over a cold, and Amy is still coughing pretty badly, so I went on a quest for a cough medicine.  In America, if I wanted something for a cough, I would simply find the aisle with several linear feet of shelf space devoted to cough medicine, look over the dozens of options until I found what I wanted, buy it and be on my way.

Not here.  Two days ago I went to a pharmacy and asked for a cough medicine recommended by the pharmacist-boyfriend of one of Amy’s co-workers.  The woman at the counter didn’t offer to find the medicine I requested but proceeded to ask if it was a dry cough or a chesty cough.  Upon hearing it was chesty, she recommended a different drug to help break up the mucous.  I bought it but it really didn’t help Amy much so yesterday I went to a different pharmacy and tried again.  Since Amy had slept so badly the previous night because of the cough, she asked me to get a cough suppressant this time.  Again, no luck on getting the drug recommended, and I had to talk to two employees to explain that while it was a chesty cough, I really wanted the cough suppressant.  Eventually I was able to buy some Robitussin.

I swore to Amy never to buy her anything at the pharmacy again because it’s so frustrating, but that resolve lasted just a day until she came home this afternoon and asked for cough drops.  Out I went to the same pharmacy as yesterday, where the conversation went like this:

“I was in yesterday to buy a cough suppressant, but today I’d just like some cough drops.”

“Is it a chesty cough or a dry cough?”

“I just need some cough drops.”

“Well, we have Strepsils . . .”

“But I’ve bought those and they say they’re just for sore throats and they don’t seem to help much.  I need cough drops.”

The woman went to the back and brought out a different woman (she had been standing about five feet away and almost certainly had heard the prior conversation.)

“Is it a chesty cough or a dry cough?”

“I just need cough drops.  Can I just have some cough drops?”

Why can’t these people just sell me some cough drops?  It’s just cough drops, people, COUGH DROPS!!   I’m trying to breathe deeply and regain my composure right now.  Really, I am.

Eventually she pointed me to two different flavors of Halls, and Fisherman’s Friend cough drops (oh, the choices!) and I was actually able to buy cough drops.  Amy’s American co-workers have had the same kinds of experiences, not being able to buy the simplest things without being grilled first, and Amy and I have had this kind of thing happen many times before, so this is not just a fluke experience.  I understand the need for pharmacists to be sure patients know the risks with strong drugs, but this is insane.  Really, I just don’t see why . . . oh, Christ, now I need some ibuprofen.

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