What Can My Pharmacist Do for Me?

Pharmacists have become a very important part of the most sophisticated health care team ever assembled. Of course, they still prepare medicine to fill your prescriptions. But today's pharmacists do much more. They counsel you on how to use your medicine correctly. And they help prevent overdoses and dangerous drug interactions by tracking the amounts and combinations of drugs you are taking.

Having a good relationship with your pharmacist is especially important if you are a member of a consumer-directed health plan, such as a medical savings account. These plans place more responsibility for health care decisions on your shoulders.

Many states now require pharmacists to counsel patients on every prescription they dispense. In a complex health care system of varying specialists and multiple drug therapies, the pharmacist is the final check for dangerous situations like overdoses and harmful drug interactions.

Pharmacists are uniquely qualified to assume this new role. Most have more than five years of training and internships in clinical pharmacy. In addition, they must complete continuing education courses to satisfy state licensing requirements.

Your pharmacist is a drug expert. He or she can help you get the most out of your medication by sharing important information on how to use it. Should you take your prescription drug before or after meals? Is it necessary to avoid excessive sunlight exposure or particular foods while you are taking a type of medicine? Are there any over-the-counter drugs you should avoid while you take this medicine or if you have a particular medical condition? Your pharmacist will be able to answer these questions as well as educate you on other health-related matters.

Be an informed consumer of your health care: Choose your pharmacy carefully, then use just that pharmacy. When you use only one pharmacy for all your prescription needs, your pharmacist can consult your complete personal drug history to keep track of the medicines you are taking. And, of course, make sure to ask your pharmacist any questions you have about your prescriptions.

How to pick a pharmacy

The decision is up to you. But it may help you to visit various pharmacies to see what they can offer you.

Here's a checklist:

  • Consider how convenient they are to use.

  • Are they clean and do they seem to be operating smoothly?

  • Is the staff courteous and friendly?

  • It helps to ask the staff questions and pay attention to the sort of answers you receive -- it will give you a hint of what it's like to deal with the staff at that pharmacy.

  • Review the pharmacy's web site. Look for on-line services such as prescription refill; online money-saving medication coupons; medication information; e-mail access to the pharmacist for questions and more.

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