Question of the Week

April 19, 2005


Pharmacists are those people that you go to when your doctor writes a prescription that you need filled. Right? Pharmacists are, "Those persons legally qualified by education and training to engage in the practice of pharmacy."

Pharmacy is, "The art or practice of preparing and preserving drugs, and of compounding and dispensing medicines according to prescriptions of physicians; the occupation of an apothecary or a pharmaceutical chemist."

Pharmacists know what the medicines do, and how to prepare them for you. What else do they know? What else do they do?

"Patient education and self-management behavioral change are underpinnings of pharmaceutical care, and not only as they directly relate to the use of medications. Pharmacists, especially those who are certified diabetes educators (CDEs), frequently provide diabetes patients with education not only on medications, but also on the overall disease state, nutrition, physical activity, decision-making skills, psychosocial adaptation, complication prevention, goal setting, barrier resolution, and cost issues."

So, you don't have diabetes, and you are sure that the pharmacist who works at your local pharmacy is just a regular one. You may be thinking:

"Why Should I Talk to My Pharmacist?
Pharmacists cannot diagnose medical conditions, but your pharmacist can answer many questions about medicines, recommend nonprescription drugs, and discuss how [you or] your child may react to specific medications. And some pharmacists can also provide blood sugar and blood pressure monitoring and offer advice on home monitoring tests. ... Recently, it has become popular for pharmacists to receive a doctor of pharmacy degree. This 6- to 7-year-program requires pharmacists in training to go on hospital rounds with doctors and be there when decisions are made to begin drug use. ... Pharmacists are required to stay up-to-date on the changing world of medicine. Every 2 years, U.S. law requires your pharmacist to complete 30 credits of continuing education classes on drug therapy."

Your pharmacist knows how the medicines work, how they work together, and which ones you don't want to take because they might now work with another medicine you are taking. They also know what medicines might not work with any alternative medicines you are taking, and even which ones might not work as well with your lifestyle -- and which ones might work better.

If you forget to mention something during your doctor's appointment, or feel that you ran out of time, talk to your pharmacist. If it is an issue that affects your treatment, s/he can work with your doctor to make any necessary changes to your prescription.

That said:

"Always follow your doctor's or pharmacist's instructions. ...
* If you're already taking a medication and want to take something you can buy over-the-counter in addition, ask the pharmacist. There could be a bad interaction. ...
* Always remind your doctor and pharmacist if you're already taking any other medicines or any herbal supplements. ...
* If you have any allergies, tell your doctor and pharacist before they start you on a new medicine. ...
* If you ever have any questions about what a medicine does or how you should take it, talk with your doctor or the pharmacist."

Some things you need to talk with your doctor about. But what about when you can't reach your doctor? What about when you wake up at three in the morning with a fever of 103* F? What about the cough that won't let you sleep but isn't worth a trip to the emergency room? What if you are out of the country and don't know how to find a local doctor -- or if you really need to see one? For example, let's say you find yourself in the United Kingdom...

"Some pharmacies in Caversham can provide advice and treatment on a range of conditions, including minor ailments and chronic disease. The pharmacists can prescribe medicines for the following conditions: coughs and colds, diarrhoea and vomiting, conjunctivitis, hay fever, thrush, cystitis, ..."

Even if you are not planning to leave the country, pharmacists can provide more information than some might think.

"In addition to these substantial education responsibilities, advanced practice pharmacists who are Board CertifiedˆAdvanced Diabetes Managers (BC-ADMs) play an expanded role that encompasses disease state management. This includes performing clinical assessments and limited physical examinations; recognizing the need for additional care; making referrals as needed; ordering and interpreting specific laboratory tests; integrating their pharmacy patient care plans into patients‚ total medical care plans; and entering notes on patient charts or carrying out other forms of written communication with patients‚ medical care providers. Depending on state regulations and physician-based protocols, some advanced practice pharmacists can prescribe and adjust medications independently or after consultation with prescribing clinicians."

Depending on where you live, you may have a 24 hour pharmacy, or one that is open from nine to five. Some things need to be treated and seen by a doctor, but some things can be dealt with by using the right over-the-counter medication; pharmacists are available for consult whenever the pharmacy is open.

Questions of the Week:
What role do you see pharmacists having in the medical field? What roll do your peers see them playing? When do you need to talk to a doctor, and when can you talk to a pharmacist instead? When should you talk to a pharmacist in addition to a doctor? What information and resources can a pharmacist offer?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

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