Scenario 1

Patient asks for advice about travelling with medication to a north African resort for three weeks and wanted to know how they should best store their medication. Given that they had been told that their accommodation included a fridge the patient asked whether it would be best to keep the product in there. The pharmacist asked what the product was and then went away to check the pack/PIL for storage information. When they returned it had been identified that the storage recommendations for the product stated ‘store below 25⁰C’. Having heard this, the patient said ‘oh that’s all right then I will keep it in the fridge’, to which the pharmacist brusquely replied, ‘no you can’t do that, it will damage the medication’. Looking a little confused the patient queried why to which the pharmacist said that because it didn’t say ‘store in the fridge’ it would be inappropriate to do so and that the patient would just have to find somewhere cool to store it instead.

Scenario 2

Doctor phones for advice about the differences between two different brands of what appear to be the same product (an injectable cosmetic product). The product the doctor is used to using comes in two variants basically two different volumes and asks if the alternative product is directly equivalent. The Pharmacist finds examples of the alternative product and then the conversation goes along the following lines…”oh okay, yes there are two versions of the other product but it is not clear what the volume of each is, all I can see on the box is a code saying 0.9cc and 1.8cc, not sure what that means…..” Surprisingly the doctor did not hang up at that point! Even worse, the pharmacist continued “I am not sure whether the 0.9 or 1.8 pack is bigger, I send you both for you to have a look at”.

Now I am not saying that age or experience was definitely a contributor here but these do seem to be examples of an increasing tendency for supposed expert to give answers to questions without any proper thought or heaven forbid admit that they don’t have all the answers. From experience, pharmaceutical or medical questions, whatever the context, very rarely have completely black and white answers. Surely as professionals it is our responsibility to use our broader scientific knowledge and experience. Again experience shows that it is much better to say that you will look into a problem and get back to the enquirer. To paraphrase an old saying, it is better to keep quiet and someone think you a fool, than to open your mouth and prove it.