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Why Pharmacists Are the Medication Experts

Pharmacists are an excellent source of information for any questions you might have about your over-the-counter and prescription medications. Pharmacists are also trained to conduct health and wellness screenings, perform medication reviews, and administer vaccinations.

Pharmacist education
Pharmacists graduate from college with a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy (B.S.Pharm.) or more recently a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree. Pharmacists attend school for five to six years and receive education and training about medication-related information and medication research

Every pharmacist must pass a national licensing exam and a state law exam before treating patients. To keep their licenses active, pharmacists must continue their education each year by attending meetings or taking courses. This continuing education helps pharmacists stay up-to-date with new and changing medication information.

Pharmacists can choose to get more training and certification in specific areas to help them work with your doctors to better manage your care. Specialized areas of additional training may include diabetes, cholesterol, oncology, and geriatrics to name a few.

How can your pharmacist help you?
Pharmacists can give you detailed information about a medication you are taking, such as when to take it and whether it should be taken with food. They can also tell you about any side effects and what to do if you forget to take your medication.

Pharmacists can conduct a medication review of the medications you are taking. This review should be performed at least once a year, either in person or over the telephone. A medication review may be performed more often if you take many medications, have changes to your medications, or have been recently hospitalized. The pharmacist will check for interactions with other medications, including over-the-counter medications, how often you take (or forget to take) your medications, and medication you may no longer need.

Together with your doctors, pharmacists may recommend ways that you can reduce the number of medications you take each day and identify the lowest dose needed to treat your condition.

Pharmacists can show you how to correctly use pillboxes, medication reminder products, inhalers, canes, walkers, compression stockings, and other medical equipment. They can also show you how to correctly inject medications that you may need.

How can your pharmacist work with other healthcare professionals?
Pharmacists work together with your doctors to identify the best medications to treat your condition. This can result in treatment that is:

  • More effective.
  • Has fewer side effects.
  • Easier for you to remember to take.

Pharmacists are trained to understand research articles about medications used in clinical studies, which can help them answer questions from other healthcare professionals about your treatment.

What else can your pharmacist do?

  • Advise you if you are having trouble paying for your medication
  • Recommend which over-the-counter products are best for you, including vitamins, supplements, and natural products
  • Give you vaccines that you need to prevent conditions such as the flu, shingles, and pneumonia

Pharmacists are valuable members of a patient’s care team. Your pharmacist is a medication expert who can provide information about your medications, administer vaccinations, and show you how to use an inhaler, walker, or other medical equipment. They can also teach you how to prevent and manage chronic diseases.

By Christina M. Di Donato, Pharm.D., Medication Safety, Quality, and Informatics Fellow, Saint Vincent Hospital/MCPHS University, Worcester, MA