Saturday, March 28, 2009

Portrait #79: Pharmacological Snob

I needed eyedrops. Specifically, Refresh Tears eyedrops with Carboxymethylcellulose sodium. That's what my surgeon prescribed.

So I went into a local pharmacy and mustered up my best Albanian: "A Keni Kjo?" (Do you have this?) And held up my empty bottle of eyedrops.

The thirty-something brown haired woman who served me took the bottle from my hand, read it, then said in virtually perfect English: "Refresh Tears. Yes, we do. Just a second."

She skipped to the back room and came out a minute later with a small box and handed it to me, informing me brusquely but not unkindly that it would cost me two and a half Euro. Being the daughter of a chemist, my first impulse was to look at the Active Ingredients information on this unfamiliar box.

It was completely different from the information on the bottle I gave her.

So I said, "This isn't the same. You don't have anything with this active ingredient?" pointing again at the writing on my bottle.

And she replied, "Yes, this is the same!"

So I pointed out that it has a different active ingredient. She shrugged and flipped her long wavy brown hair as she asked me if I am trained in Pharmacology?

I didn't have a ready answer for that, and before I could come up with a reasonable reply, she said, "I didn't think so. So until you go to Pharmacology school and become a pharmacist, don't tell me what is and is not the same. I am trained in this and I'm telling you it's the same thing."

To which I muttered some flabbergasted comment about the chemical composition being different. So she could tell me it was similar but it obviously wasn't exactly the same. Her reply was to say that if I didn't want it I didn't have to get it. It was my choice, but I shouldn't tell her it wasn't the same thing.

But just as I was turning around to leave in disbelief, fully aware that there were several other dozen pharmacies within walking distance of my house so I could take my business elsewhere, her co-worker asked her what the fuss was about. I handed him the bottle, he read the bit about Active Ingredient Carboxymethylcellulose sodium, and disappeared into the back room.

The pixie pharmacist turned to attend to another customer, leaving me standing by the door. When the other pharmacist, a much older gentleman whose dignified appearance actually suggested he might be a real chemist-pharmacist - even if he didn't speak English, returned, he gave me another little box. The active ingredients listed for that included Carboxymethylcellulose sodium, among a few other things. His junior gave it to me and explained that her colleague found me this, but, "I don't recommend this for you. I prefer for you to take the other one."

That kind comment almost redeemed her, but not enough for me to make a purchase in her store. I turned around and walked out, wondering what cultural faux pas I'd made to evoke such animosity.

I have now concluded that she was in fact being snobby. I concluded this after I did go to the dozen or so other pharmacies and no one else tried to pass off a different product as the same. Some of them suggested an alternative with apologies that they didn't have what I wanted. And others simply shook their heads and said they didn't have Carboxymethylcellulose sodium Refresh Tears in stock. And none of them told me I didn't have the right to ask for that because I'm not a trained pharmacist.


Leo (leyam2002-yahoo) said...

Hope you finally got CMC tear refresher. :)

Reference to CMC brought me to your blog. A warm pic of yours on right side of blog made me curious to go through the blog content... Found ur writing interesting :) the bst.

Anonymous said...

carboxymethylcellulose is not the active its a viscosity increasing agent, i.e. leave the pharmacology to the pharmacists

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