In the world of pharmacy, there are some phenomena that have no convenient name. Inspired by Douglas Adams, Fintan Moore tries to remedy that situation

I was fortunate enough back in my college days to once see the late great author, Douglas Adams, give a talk one night in a Trinity lecture theatre. Adams is most famous for the brilliant Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series of books, which I regard as essential reading for any human. I’ve a theory that if more people read the Hitchhiker’s books instead of the Bible that the world would be a better place, but I think that will have to remain just a theory.

He was also the author of The Meaning of Liff, which is a kind of dictionary in which place-names from around the world are assigned definitions which have no other name by which to call them.

Examples include:
Duleek (n): Sudden realisation, as you lie in bed waiting for the alarm to go off, that it should have gone off an hour ago.

Ely (n): The first, tiniest inkling that something, somewhere, has gone terribly wrong.

Meath (adj): Warm and very slightly clammy. Descriptive of the texture of your hands after the automatic drying machine has turned itself off, just damp enough to make it embarrassing if you have to shake hands with someone immediately afterwards.

Adams said that the idea for the book arose when he and some friends had been holidaying on a Greek island, drinking one night and playing charades until they got ‘too drunk to stand’, so they started with the definitions

In his talk, Adams said that the idea for the book arose when he and some friends had been holidaying on a Greek island drinking one night and playing charades until they got ‘too drunk to stand’, so they started with the definitions. In the world of pharmacy, there are lots of phenomena which similarly have no convenient name, so I’ll try to address the issue here.

Rembrandts (n): The handful of branded tablets left over in a split pack when all the patients on that drug have now been switched to the generic.

Colombollox (n): A patient on multiple items who always orders their prescription with the vaguest information as to what they want, and inevitably find that something has been left out of the bag. Derived from the detective Colombo, who always asked about ‘one more thing’.

Nexpiration (n): A short-dated drug that you find on the shelf that has no patient using it so it will eventually go out of date, and all you can do is leave it sit there until it does.

Ocrapoclock (n): The moment you notice that you have forgotten to transmit your DOE and it is now past your cut-off time, necessitating a frantic read through the list identifying what items were needed urgently and planning an alternative.

Generitoxic (adj): A patient who insists that ‘generics just don’t agree with me’ and insists on the branded product only.

Smugiggle (n): The warm, happy little glow of pleasure when you start a Generitoxic patient on a new medication and quietly give them the generic option.

Glowcum (n): A really good locum who takes care of a pharmacy and patients just like the owner would, sorting out loose ends and leaving clear notes on anything needing to be followed up.

Salesreptile (n): The kind of rep who will take advantage of unwary staff to load you up with too much stock, which also comes in at a higher price than the deal that was promised.

Whinecounter (n): A patient who gets 30 tablets with every dispensing and complains about being left short of tablets in every month with 31 days, but never comments about February.

Sharpest Tools

I’ve expressed my admiration here before for the business acumen shown by the barbers of the country when it comes to placing a value on their services and time, unlike so many pharmacists. Both barbers and pharmacists are working with the public in circumstances that have gotten more difficult, with no guarantees that we are anywhere near the end of the beginning of the coronavirus crisis. It is not possible to function with the same level of cost and efficiency as it was before last March.

However, depending on where you go, the price of a haircut has jumped about €4 to cover the post-Covid precautions and equipment, whereas there are pharmacists advertising Ventolin inhalers for €3.50 on Facebook.
Maybe the time barbers spend every day in the company of razor-sharp cutting edges has the effect of focusing the mind, but pharmacists tend to have enough Bohemian blades scattered around the dispensary to cut all the cocaine at a Wall Street party, so there must be another factor at play.

Whatever it is, it could be worthwhile if the schools of pharmacy had a guest lecture spot for barbers to come in and pass on some words of wisdom.

<strong>Fintan Moore</strong>
Fintan Moore

Fintan Moore graduated as a pharmacist in 1990 from TCD and currently runs a pharmacy in Clondalkin.