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Xrayser: Picky patients’ tasting notes have me reaching for the bottle

Patients who demand to know whether Calpol is good chambré are turning pharmacists into salbutamol sommeliers, says Xrayser

Like many people, the last 12 months of lockdown turned me to drink. So much so that I decided it was time for some serious continuing professional development (CPD) and so enrolled with the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) because CPD and drinking combined – what’s not to like!

I soon realised that issues of taste and palate appeal are something that we come across regularly in the pharmacy, most often in the selection of medicines for children.

Whether it’s paracetamol suspension for a grizzly, snotty, teething child held by a mother who’s gone so long without sleep she looks like Sadako climbing out the well in The Ring, or that urgent antibiotic to prevent sepsis, the first question we’re always asked is: “does it taste nice?”

Now, I struggle with the question because, once weaned, our baby was fed everything we ate and grew up actively seeking taste sensations beyond burger and chips. Then again, we may just have been lucky not to share the experience of friends who could only administer medicine to their kids through a combination of pleading, guile, and waterboarding.

However, there are times that a patient seems to really appreciate the taste and nuances of their drugs. When supervising methadone consumption, there are two types of client. Many are those with such busy lives that they rush in, chug back the day’s dose with a mobile phone clamped to their ear like some Wall Street executive juggling multiple short sells, then rush off with an obvious urgency to be back doing the deal. But then there are also the connoisseurs, those who take their time and stand before you savouring the emerald elixir like a 1985 Romanée-Conti Grand Cru, trying to decide whether to award it 93 or 95 Parker Points.

But by far the most exasperating are the patients who require a specific, obscure brand of generic drug. I’ve been told everything from “I get better dreams with that make of zopiclone” to the empirically pretentious “my child is better behaved on that company’s trimethoprim suspension”.

This strikes me as the same prejudicial misconception shared by the “ABC” movement of wine drinkers, where “ABC” stands for “Anything But Chardonnay”. Chardonnay is one of the most versatile grapes and is the constituent part of some of the world’s greatest wines including those from Chablis, Mâconnais and Champagne.

Just as Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) requirements govern the quality of Chablis wines, regulations guarantee that drugs of whatever brand or make are manufactured to the same specification, yet that’s not good enough for someone who demands their sertraline is supplied by Rocking Horse Excrement Pharma. Honestly, it’s enough to drive you to drink.

A long-running C+D contributor, the identity of Xrayser remains a mystery, but his irreverent views are known by all. Tweet him @Xrayser

Pharmacy Assistant
Paignton, Devon
£ Competitive

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