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Measure for measure: My methadone memories

"The patient sipped at their methadone like it was an aged whisky – to be enjoyed, not rushed"

A MethaMeasure machine made Kristoffer Stewart's locum shift far easier than he expected

C+D's article this week about the origins of the MethaMeasure device reminded me of when I moved to Scotland two years ago. After settling in, I booked my first locum shift in Edinburgh for what seemed an easy day’s work.

I was booked in for four hours on a Saturday morning, dispensing what I was told would be a few substance misuse prescriptions. In the end, I dispensed 38 – yes, you read correctly, 38 – substance misuse prescriptions, 35 of which were for methadone.

Prior to moving to Scotland, I had only locumed in one pharmacy that dispensed methadone, and I think they only had four or five of these patients. When I dispensed these scripts, it was always with some trepidation. The prescriptions looked different, and we had to check the patient’s ID against passport photos attached. It tended to be an uncomfortable 5-10 minute sit-down where they sipped at their methadone like it was an aged whiskey – to be enjoyed, not rushed.

So the prospect of dispensing that much methadone should have had me shaking in my boots. But it didn’t. I had a secret weapon … a MethaMeasure device.

The pharmacy I had booked in Edinburgh asked me to come in briefly so they could show me this machine, which they said would save me huge amounts of time. I found it was relatively easy to use once I had been shown what to do.

A quick calibration meant there was no need to hand pour each and every methadone prescription, images of the patient were stored on the computer to ensure the right person was getting the right medication, and a simple computer interface meant that prescriptions could be entered quickly and accurately.

The machine – coupled with the directions I received from staff – meant that a hectic morning was not the nightmare I thought it was going to be.


James Dickson, Community pharmacist

w it's amazing to see all these comments about my little machine! I wish we had figured out a way to prevent you pouring it on the floor!! ..... one thing we ask you to do!  

If you want a methameasure machine call 08000270671 :) 

Sarah Smythe, Information Technology

I feel sorry for your profession having to deal with methadone addicts. Innumerable occasions I have seen them pilfering your stock as you try to help them. Pffff.

Jupo Patel, Production & Technical

 You should make it clear from the outset you won't be taking an [email protected] Being a cowardly doormat seems to be part of the reason your industry is collapsing around you all.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Are you not even a pharmacist?? Why do you feel you can comment on Pharmacy matters?

Alan WHITEMANN, Communications

These patients cause more stress and problems than any other NHS patients . Like Jaz says , they are a pain in the back side. If you can live with their verbal abuse,  intimidation and keep one eye on stock, then you're fine with them. Most pharmacists are NOT and should not be made to dispense their methadone by bosses who sit in their cosy cars and offices doing naff all.

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

I got to disagree... my most troublesome, stress-inducing, want-everything-yesterday for nothing patients are without a shadow of a doubt... CAREHOMES!

Alan WHITEMANN, Communications

No no no Valentine. The Care home patients are fine , they just sit in their chairs and do what they are told. Its the people that manage the care homes that are the problem, they are the ones you have to interface with . They think they are so smart, well organized and important but just actually NOT.

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

Agreed Alan, I should really have said 'customers' when referring to the care home. Although on second thoughts, the term  'customer' infers that there is monetary exchange taking place - which couldn't be further from the truth!

Alan WHITEMANN, Communications

Hahaha, Good point mate !!! :-)

Jaz Kaur, Pharmacy

Methadone patients are a pain in the bloody arse. Like someone else commented, turn up 5 mins before close or even after and then come up with some pathetic excuse. Oh and then threaten you.  Community pharmacy is not set up to handle these patients safely. Should be done from specific sites.

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

Wet as water, give them a warning, then tell them to FOR COUGH to another pharmacy!  Have a zero tolerance approach and define your boundaries from the start. Doing this, I very rarely have any problems with this group and if I do, they are swiftly dealt with. Like everything in pharmacy, most pharmacists are their own worst enemy! Just come down on them like a tonne of bricks.  (turning up 5 mins after closing, for crying out loud!,  they have only had 9 hours or so, where were they? Actively working or seeking work????!!!! )  One lad stole from us and was arrested and banned for life on the same morning. ZERO TOLERANCE !


S Pessina, Pharmacist Director

Quite right Anglea but Boots, Lloyds bosses do not give you a choice in having these rejects. Suddenly appears in appears in your  performance contract. 

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

Agreed. NHS should be funding a security guard for such pharmacies.

Bob Dunkley, Locum pharmacist

Ah happy days, 40 methadones on a Saturday morning all coming in 5mins before closing, and no Methameasure. Saturday afternoons were then spent entering them up in the register.

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

Well more fool you!  

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

There's a pharmacy in Hull where their methadone is done over a post office style counter at the back because they do so many and it's better for everyone to keep it apart.

The methameasure is great, just so long as you remember to put the bottle under the tube BEFORE you press the dispense button. Otherwise you quickly learn how amazingly sticky and stainy methadone is.

I wish everyone would savour their green stuff though. I've had a few where I genuinely thought they were going to barf on me.

Kristoffer Stewart, Editorial

I think forgetting to put the bottle under the tube is a right of passage when using the Methameasure machine, that and having an empty methadone bottle when the machine is attempting to pour a dose

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

And you have a degree and are CPD editor?  God help us!! 

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Hey, I have a degree too and I've forgotten to do it twice!!

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