Comment & Analysis

Quizzed for the ‘morning after’ pill… a pharmacist’s job
"it’s the pharmacist’s job to ensure that medications are taken safely", writes Mary Kenny

At the suggestion of a doctor, I occasionally have recourse to an over-the-counter medication called ‘Night Nurse’. It is a helpful aid to sleeping when you’re feeling a bit chesty, but it should be used sensibly, even perhaps sparingly, as it contains the opioids of paracetamol, promethazine and dextromethorphan.

Thus, whenever I purchase a bottle of this balsam, I am grilled by the pharmacist as to my understanding of the potion’s components.  Occasionally I am treated to a little lecture on the dangers of overdosing or addiction. 

Rather than exclaiming “do you think I’m a complete eejit?”,  I carefully assure pharmacists that I am a responsible senior citizen with a bronchial condition, using this medication at the suggestion of a GP. I am then permitted to acquire the remedy. 

Some young women are, apparently, subjected to something similar when purchasing ‘morning-after contraception’ at the chemists. “A trip to go to get the morning-after pill is never fun,” wrote Lorraine Courtney in The Irish Independent. “And when it involves a mandatory ‘consultation’ from someone behind the counter of a high-street pharmacy that leaves you swaddled in judgement and shame? Well, it’s even less fun…”

Judged

But, as I tell myself when obtaining my cough physic, it’s the pharmacist’s job to ensure that medications are taken safely. You do feel ‘judged’ when asked to justify your use of an opioid, but for the pharmacist, it’s a necessary procedure.

The ‘morning-after’ pill – leave aside any moral or ethical issues – is a serious medication which can have implications and side-effects. I have known women to take it, then change their mind, then worry about the impact on a possible pregnancy. There is also a potential legal issue: should it be sold irresponsibly – if there were medical counter-indications – the pharmacy could well be sued.

There have been complaints that in Boots the chemists kept the price of the ‘MAP’ too high as a deterrent to “incentivising inappropriate use” which does sound a bit hypocritical. If they’re selling it and making a profit out of the sale, don’t pretend otherwise. But it’s legitimate for pharmacists to insist on a ‘consultation’ for a drug that can be, literally, life-altering.

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I cannot believe that any national committee would be so stupid as to replace St Patrick’s Day with ‘Independence Day’. But that, it seems, is being considered by a group of historians led by the distinguished Maurice Manning, planning centenary celebrations marking the establishment of the Irish state in 1922. 

St Patrick’s Day is one of the most successful ‘brands’ in the world. Only someone living in an ivory tower, with no grasp of the commercial advantages of ‘brand recognition’ could even contemplate abolishing the identity of March 17.

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No fear of those longboats now

One of the sounds of summer in Dublin city is the roaring cheer of tourists aboard the ‘Viking Splash’ tours, starting off at St Stephen’s Green. The vehicle is shaped like a Viking longboat and the participants equipped with horned Viking headgear; they’re urged to cheer loudly in unison, as they pass certain landmarks. It seems to be a very successful stunt – there’s always a queue of families waiting for the next Viking tour.

How interesting that with the passage of time, something fierce and terrifying can be tamed into something harmless and fun. To see that Viking armada appear on the horizon in 800-900 AD must have been the most frightening harbinger of a season of raping and pillaging. 

Admittedly, many eventually settled down and founded cities like Waterford. And now the feared Vikings are but a jolly tourist ride around Dublin city.