Since the beginning of the year, my family (excluding my dad who rarely gets sick) has been plagued by cold, flu, and sore throat. One of us would catch it from somebody else, we then infect each other and we heal. The cycle never ends. In fact, my mom, my husband and my daughter and I are still nursing a cold right now. We are all on various prescription medications. However, only my daughter had gone to see her pediatrician. It is troubling how easy it is for us to obtain and consume strong medication without any firsthand examination and consultation with a doctor.
Buying prescription drugs without prescription is extremely easy in Indonesia. You can walk into most pharmacies, name a prescription drug and purchase it with no question asked. On the contrary, it is very hard for pharmaceutical companies to receive a certification for their medicine from the government. Clearly the government has had success in regulating the manufacturing of medicines, but fails to enforce their sales. This creates a dangerous convenience for Indonesian consumers.
One does not have to go to the doctor again for recurring illness. The prescription medicine worked the last time, so it should work this time around. If the sickness is unfamiliar, just ask a friend or a family for a suggestion. The pharmacist will also recommend prescription medicine for you. Doctors also readily provide names of prescription medication to be taken by phone consultation to family, friends and special patients. These practices are so common, even I do it.
In fact, this morning I just called up a friend of my Dad and told him that the medicine he recommended me last month was not working this time around, and I need an alternative to cure my persistent runny nose. He texted me the medicine and told me to take antibiotics. Half an hour later I was in the pharmacy buying the medicines. Do I need the antibiotics? I don’t know. I took it anyway. At least I asked a doctor first, unlike my husband who just takes antibiotics when he feels like he needs it.
Have you ever get prescribed medicines for an eye infection by the phone? Surely not. Most doctors would want to see it first hand. Well, I got a free pas during my last infection. It was the third time in a row that I got an eye infection, in the same eye, late last year. It was such a hassle to go to drop off Chloe at my parents’ office and go to the eye clinic. What did I do? I called up my dad, who called a ophthalmologist he deemed trustworthy and let him know I will be calling him to consult. I then described the symptoms, eye condition and medicines previously prescribed to me. He explained to me what he thought it was and told me he would be texting me the medicines. I thanked him profusely. Text message was received within 10 minutes.
Ok. I am lucky that my Dad knows so many people in the medical Industry. But, what about everybody else? I am also lucky that the medicines I took worked well. What if it does not? Lax access to ‘prescribed’ medicine is indeed convenient, until something goes wrong.
Yesterday, my husband complained that he had cold sweats, insomnia and excessive worrying the night before. He told me he felt very sentimental and worrisome. After an online search, he found out that those were side effects of the medicine he took. A pharmacist recommended the prescription medicine to him because another medicine I had recommended to him was not in stock. Did you notice that the two people who had recommended medicines to him were not licensed to prescribed medicine at all? Even worse, the type of medicine he received from the pharmacist did not apply to his sickness. He had a cold with a dry cough. The remedy he took was supposed to suppress a runny nose. So, because of misinformed suggestions, he could end up extending the length of his sickness or developing symptoms far worse than the original illness.
Consuming the wrong medicine can be fatal. A lot of people realize the danger but most choose to ignore it. I am one of them. Although, I always make sure that the medicines are safe for breastfeeding. I think it will take a lot of effort from the government and medical institutions to educate patients not to purchase prescription medication without a firsthand consultation with a doctor. Ultimately, the Indonesian government must strictly regulate medicinal sales. Seeing a doctor may be costly and time consuming, but the benefits outweigh the risks.
With all honestly, I will still continue with my medicine purchase habits. I mean, I always go see the doctors for non-common sickness, such as vertigo and spotting. I will also avoid taking antibiotics as much as I can. The antibiotic that I took for my current cold is way too strong and had a weird side effect on my stomach. I got cramps right after I took it, but I have to take another dose, since you always have to finish the required amount. Like right now, my stomach is growling. Oh wait.. that’s just the night munchies calling.