Monday, November 24, 2014

Pharmacy Shmarmacy

Imagine: It's 8:00 pm on a week night. You're battling a killer headache. You've fought the good fight, but it's time to call in reinforcements. You trudge to the medicine cabinet in your fuzzy socks and rummage around for your trusty bottle of ibuprofen. There it is- sweet relief within your grasp! *GASP* The bottle is empty. Crud muffins. What is your next move?

Before August 28th of this year, my response to this dilemma would have been a little bit of frustration and inconvenience, as at this time in the evening, I'm probably makeup-free and in my pjs, having just gotten the goose to bed and starting my relax time. But I would have grabbed my keys and purse, maybe swapped my pjs pants for some jeans, and headed down the road to the closest Walgreen. (Which was in fact, about 2 minutes from my townhouse in the States.) So as frustrating as it would be to be out of something I needed at that moment it would be easy to go grab it from the local pharmacy and be back home within just a few minutes.

Fast forward to October 2014. This scenario happens, but this time I'm living in Germany. My muscles in my shoulder and neck are super stiff, sore and painful. Stretch it out- check. Massage it- check. Heat lamp- check. But gosh darn it, I need an ibuprofen. The pharmacies here are called "Apothekes". We don't have CVS, Walgreen, Rite-Aid, etc. Most Apothekes close around 6:00 or 7:00 pm at the latest. On week nights. On Saturdays. And they are CLOSED on Sunday. There is a rotating schedule you can find in the paper or online, listing the one Apotheke that will be open 24 hours each day. (Only one.) So there is a way to get your precious ibuprofen. Yay! But wait, the one that's open past 6:00 pm today is a 20 minute bus ride and 10 minute walk from there. What used to be a 15 minute maximum round trip is now closer to an hour.

Here is my experience with the Apotheke stores in Deutschland so far. What is nice, what is frustrating, what it's like getting meds from there.

*Apothekes are recognized by the large block letter "A" as shown in the photo below.

*Apothekes are clean, well lit and well stocked

*They resemble a high end store much more than a pharmacy we are used to being in in the States. They have mirrored walls, pricey spa type products and herbal products over the counter.

*Most medicines, including aspirin, Tylenol, first aid ointment, etc that we would typically buy over the counter, are behind the counter here. So that's a bit frustrating. Given my limited Deutsch, it's hard for me to describe what I need sometimes. Plus a lot of the medicines are totally different brands and names here.

*The pharmacists at the Apotheke stores are quite nosy. Haha! Well, I suppose it's their job, but they will ask you what your symptoms are or why you need the medicine you ask for. In some situations, this could be quite helpful and lovely, but when there are four other customers behind you in line, it's frustrating and a bit "on the spot". When you are used to being able to grab your stuff, check out and pay with no questions, this takes some getting used to. (I DO see the benefit in this, as Germany is trying to prevent overdoses and even over-the-counter product over-usage. So for this reason, you are typically unable to purchase more than one package of medicine at a time.)

*You get much less medicine in a package here. I have not found bottles of medicine yet, they are all packaged in cardboard boxes with blister packs inside.

(I did find that most vitamins are easily purchased over the counter and in larger quantities at the "dm" store, which is kind of like a Walgreen with the type of things you can buy there, minus the pharmacy section. They only have vitamins, no medicines.)

*Not knowing how many brands are available or what a good price for certain items is here, I'm not always sure I'm getting the best deal. I have learned just this week that you can ask for "the cheapest please", "Das Billigste bitte", so I will try that the next time.

*Dosages for liquid medications are given by weight and not age here. Which I think is brilliant, as it's much safer and more effective to be taking the amount of medicine your body actually needs. I mean, for example, some 4 year old children weigh 40 lbs and some weigh 30 lbs. And others a lot more or less than those numbers listed.

The whole Apotheke concept was difficult for me at first, but just because it was sooooo different. For 31 years, I was used to finding pharmacies and over-the-counter products on every corner in almost every grocery or super center store. And being able to purchase my vitamins, medicines and such with no questions asked. (Well, besides good ole Sudafed of course! Thanks meth!)

 After getting used to the way medicines and vitamins are purchased here, I find myself quite liking the safety precautions taken with drugs, as even over-the-counter drugs (and vitamins) are dangerous when taken incorrectly, too often, or if you have an allergy to them.

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