Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Reset Pain

I helped Cindy reset the analgesic section at a local pharmacy yesterday. In the life of the merchandiser, resets are a common occurrence though the rationale for the practice is a little fuzzy. Why, one might ask, can't the shelves remain with the product as is? I don't know the answer to that question. Instead, I know that the merchandiser (that would be Cindy) gets a planogram which pictures how the section is supposed to be reset, meaning that all the product gets moved to different locations in a 12 or 16 foot section which is usually 6 to 8 shelves high. There is a detailed list that accompanies a planogram which identifies every single item and its numeric location on the shelf. The merchandiser uses this information to rearrange the whole section and to "cut in" (make space for) any new product. Are you still with me?

As I said, our job yesterday, was to reset an analgesic section. Analgesics (from the Greek an-, without + algesis, sense of pain) are used to treat pain, inflammation, headache, and cramps. Many of the analgesics are also antipyretics meaning they reduce fever. Do you have any idea how many different types of over-the-counter analgesics American pharmacies carry?

There is aspirin (Bayer and Ecotrin) and acetaminophen (Tylenol). There is also a combination of aspirin and acetaminophen with "therapeutic" caffeine added (Excedrin). Then there are the ibuprofens (Advil and Motrin), and last but not least naproxen (Aleve.) But wait! Each of these comes in various strengths usually measured by milligrams, ranging from the newly popular 81 mg of aspirin (for heart thereapy) to 250 mg. (the amount usually noted as "Extra Strength"). They also come in various forms. In 1914, Bayer introduced the aspirin tablet. But now analgesics also come in coated tablets designed to protect the stomach and caplets, EZ caps, and geltabs, all of which are purportedly easier to swallow. There are also rapid release gel-caps. And for you old timers who remember aspirin powders (BC), they are still available too.

Of course, some folks want only a few pills (20-40) while others want a family-size (500). There are several sizes in between too: 50, 60, 100, 125, and 250, depending on the brand. Many of the brands offer special formulations for night-time labeled PM, and other formulas specifically for back pain (Doan's), and also ones for cramps, migraines, tension headaches, restless legs, and arthritis. There are also liquid suspensions for infants, and chewables for 2-6 year-olds, and melt-aways for 6-11 year olds. Oh, and there are topical analgesics that come in creams and balms (including non-greasy forms) and wraps and patches. The wraps and patches offer different shapes for arms, backs, necks and yes, even the forehead.

OK, you do the math! How many analgesic products do you think you'll find on the pharmacy shelf? All I can tell you is that there were five pages of product listed with the planogram, and it took us six hours with 20 minutes out for lunch to reset the section.

We were both hurting when we got home from bending and squatting and kneeling and reaching, so I popped a couple ibuprofen caplets and Cindy swallowed a couple of Excedrin Extra Strength tablets and we were ready to kick back and watch a movie.


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