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Why Some Medicines Require a Prescription and Others Don’t

Dispensing medicine is a tricky business.

To treat people’s pain or diseases, we are often dealing with very potent chemicals which can be abused if they fall into the wrong hands. That is why we keep these things off the shelves where they can be swiped by unscrupulous hands. My customers often assume that these are merely the most expensive drugs, as though they were a 1970s Fender Stratocaster that needs to be housed in a glass case lest some beginner tries to play Smoke on the Water and bangs it against an amp. There are actually much better reasons why we keep them under the watchful eye of the pharmacist.

Potency

When filling prescriptions online Australia, we are often dealing with powerful painkillers such as codeine, panadeine forte, morphine or endone. These drugs are all types of opioids, and you probably don’t need a medical degree for that word to have raised a few red flags. When used correctly, an opioid activates receptors on your nerves which belong to a family of proteins called G protein-coupled receptors, or GPCRs for short. This then blocks the pain messages which travel from your affected area through your spinal cord and up to the brain. For all intents and purposes, you don’t feel anything when these opioids are affecting your system. The intervention of various opioids in the healing process has been a godsend for people in chronic amounts of pain, but like every rose, it has its thorns. They are highly addictive, and there is currently an opioid epidemic in the United States. It is estimated that in the last twenty years, half a million people have died from some form of opioid overdose, and the the curve is continuing to rise. Overdose deaths rose nearly 5% from 2018 and 2019, and 70% of these were the result of an opioid in the system. In Australia, Opioid abuse accounts for almost 150 hospital admissions every day, and 14 visits to the emergency room. We are clearly in the midst of our own crisis as well. 

Having these medicines behind the counter and available as online prescriptions also allows the pharmacist to monitor who is taking an opioid and how much they are taking. Chemically, it is not all that different to heroin, and so it is simply untenable that we would leave this unregulated. 

Advice

When dealing with drugs of this potency, we need to be extremely deliberate in how we take them. A pharmacist filling prescriptions online Australia is able to speak directly with you to ensure that you know how to take them. I’ll be honest, you could take ‘too much’ vitamin C pills (please don’t) and not suffer too many adverse reactions. Your urine might be slightly discoloured, but you would generally get rid of the excess with little harm done (again, please don’t test this). But if you take a more powerful drug, you can end up with anything as many as nausea, constipation or diarrhoea, right up to organ damage, loss of consciousness and even death. When giving online prescriptions, we are able to make sure that you are taking these medicines correctly. 

Efficacy

Often, customers are after whatever they think will make them feel better, and they don’t care about much else. That is why I often see people who are currently healthy buying the generic brand of medicines because in their rational mindset, they understand that they are largely the same drug as the more expensive brand names. But when that same customer returns a few weeks later, nursing a sore throat that could slay a walrus, they inevitably buy the most expensive product available in the hope that this will outgun the infection. This attitude also manifests in them wanting antibiotics at the drop of a hat. I’m so sick of this sore throat, they will say. Reckon I will need some antibiotics to kick it once and for all

There is a profound problem with this. Firstly, they probably won’t do what you want them to do unless they have been recommended by a doctor, but secondly, this is like trying to swat a fly with a hammer. Scientists have started referring to your gut as your second brain, as the various bacteria and micro-flora which live there can affect your mental wellbeing and physical health. When we undergo a course of antibiotics, it drastically affects the delicate balance in your gut and it can affect you in ways you might have never imagined. It can take up to two months for the gut to recover from this agent orange approach, and personally, I would rather let the cold run its course.

The third (and perhaps most important) reason why we need to keep antibiotics as available only through prescriptions online Australia is that if we use them poorly, the virus develops an immunity. That means when we really need to kick influenza to the curb, our greatest weapon has lost much of its firepower. We’ve given the infection a crash course in how to breach our best defences. We need to keep the ace up our sleeve for when we truly need it. Keeping the antibiotics behind the counter is our best bet.

This does all raise a few questions as pharmacies shift into an online sphere. Have we lost some of the accountability and personal touch that made pharmacists such effective dispensers of these medicines? Can’t anyone get anything if they are anonymous behind a keyboard? 

Of course not. I didn’t become a pharmacist to see this important responsibility fall by the wayside.

When filling online prescriptions, we require evidence from your doctor that you do genuinely need this medicine. We also require you to register so that we can keep close tabs on who is taking what. As a result, everyone sleeps well at night. You, because you have access to the treatments which a doctor has prescribed to you; and me, because I know I have protected the most important role of the pharmacist.

Godspeed,

Floyd.