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It’s now spring and for some reason my immune system finally decides to shit itself and tell viruses to invade my body and give me a cold. Lame.

I was coming home from a friend’s place the other day when I decided to drop into the pharmacy to get some cold and flu tablets to ease my symptoms. I generally frown upon these sort of tablets because they don’t really do anything to actually get rid of the cold, but today I thought I would give it a try so that I wasn’t sick for a whole month, like last time.

So I entered the pharmacy and headed for the front desk where I asked the sales assistant if she could help me with some cold tablets. She handed me a pack of tablets and I promptly told her I wanted to have a read of the packet before I purchased it. With cold and flu medicine I worry that the ingredients might be homeopathic. Some tablets are herbal but I am afraid that some companies tend to blur the lines between herbal and homeopathic. I’m not great with chemical names so I gave up pretty quickly and took the medicine to the counter.

“Erm, I was just wondering… Are these tablets homeopathic?”

I asked.

The woman looked at me and said,

“No, do you want those? We have them and I can get them for you.”

I explained to the woman that I was just checking if the tablets were homeopathic because I wanted actual REAL medicine and that I could “get water out of the tap” if I wanted to. She smiled and laughed (being the charismatic devil that I am) and declared that she agreed with me. I found this interesting because she was so quick to offer homeopathic woo woo in place of real science-based medicine even though she completely disagreed with it. Seems like the customer is always right. This made me wonder how many people actually use homeopathic and other alternative medicine(credited: Jovial and Jocular) quackery when they get colds. This was in no way a scientific study, but from this I could see how likely it is that a substantial amount of people must request homeopathic remedies during the winter season.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom though. The assistant explained to me that the homeopathic remedies are kept in a completely different section to the real medicine, so at least they aren’t mixing it in and misleading their customers completely. I was tempted to ask her more questions about the homeopathic and alternative medicine products they sold but I didn’t want to harass her. However, I did leave the shop feeling a whole lot better knowing I had put my brain to use before buying medicine!

Ah skepticism, will you ever do me wrong?




    • Jovial and jocular
    • Posted September 27, 2008 at 8:51 pm
    • Permalink

    Interesting. I rarely get sick (I think it’s my hermit-like existence) so I don’t know much about the quality of advise offered by pharmacy staff. I have been wondering though, and have considered doing a bit of my own “harrassing” to keep them on their toes.

    However–given only your description–I’m not sure about drawing any link between her offer to supply homeopathic tablets and the frequency with which people request it. I’d be wary that the implied link may be due to confirmation bias on your part. That said, I wasn’t there so maybe there were more clues you picked up on than you described.

    Oh, and here is a correction, free of charge:

    I was tempted to ask her more questions about the homeopathic and alternative medicine productsother quackery they sold but I didn’t want to harass her.

    Fixed. Don’t let them win the PR war 😉

    Funny you mention you “generally frown upon these sort of tablets because they don’t really do anything to actually get rid of the cold”. I’m the opposite. I love how well they work to relieve the symptoms. For things such as colds, if there are no symptoms then what do I care how long it hangs around for? Ah, the magic of reality-based medicine.

    Good article Skee-lio.

  1. Pseudoephedrine seems to work as advertised but it’s getting more difficult to buy due to it also being used to make “recreational” drugs 😦

    I’ve noticed that chemists around here sell ear candles, which has always bugged me since they are both useless and dangerous. However, I was heartened recently when a friend said they had a blocked ear and when they asked the chemist about the candles, he was told not to bother and go and see the doctor instead. Some syringing and antibiotics and things were back t normal pretty quickly.

    Like you, I assume some pharmacists stock the quackery due to demand but are professional enough not to push it on people.

    • Bumblebee
    • Posted October 12, 2008 at 4:59 pm
    • Permalink

    You’re absolutely right about the shoplady’s double standard but you’re also right about yourself being just as bad!

    NOTHING will cure a cold and anything besides paracetamol (take TWO of them, one is the dose I feed to my children) and xylometazolin to relieve the symptoms is quackery and a waste of money, including the drug you probably left the shop with…

    Seeing a doctor or taking antibiotics is nonsense as well, a doctor can do nothing for you and will probably prescribe penicillin only to keep you happy, the penicillin will give you diarrhoea and your cold will not react to it because, as you very well know, the common cold is caused by viruses and viruses are not killed by antibiotics.

    And of course, get well soon… 😉

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