The Expanding Role of Pharmacists in Your Health Care
Think of your pharmacist as a valuable member of your health care team. Find out what questions to ask a pharmacist about your medications.
With Americans filling more than 3.5 billion prescriptions each year, the pharmacist is a VIP when it comes to your health.
The pharmacist can be your most accessible health care professional. An essential part of his or her job is to talk to people about their medications.
More than 10,000 prescription drugs are available today, and the pharmacist’s role is to be knowledgeable about all aspects of these drugs. This includes the drug’s:
- Manufacturers and uses
- Chemical properties
- Possible side effects or interactions with food and other medications
A pharmacist can also advise you on whether certain over-the-counter and natural health products, foods or herbal supplements might interact harmfully with your prescriptions. He or she can also make sure all information given by your doctor is complete.
Getting the info right
You may see many doctors to manage your health. But it is very important to fill your prescriptions at one pharmacy. This ensures that your medication records are in one place so your pharmacist can keep track of everything you are taking.
Plus, it is estimated that over half of the people with chronic disease do not take their medication properly. This can lead to higher rates of death, adverse drug events, hospital admissions and health care costs. Making sure this doesn’t happen to you is reason enough to count your pharmacist as a valued member of your health care team.
Talking to your pharmacist
When you establish a relationship with a pharmacist, be sure to discuss:
- All prescription and non-prescription drugs you are taking
- Any herbal supplements or products you are using
- Your allergies
For every medication you take, ask what it does. Also ask about when and how to take it. And get the facts about:
- Proper dosing
- Whether to take drugs on an empty stomach or with food
- How often it should be taken
- What time of day it should be taken
Other questions to ask
How long should I take this drug?
Your doctor should tell you how long you should take a drug. Then your pharmacist can verify this information and can add how long you should take non-prescription drugs. He or she should also be able to tell you how soon to expect the medication to work and when to get a refill.
Can this drug trigger allergic reactions? Should I avoid alcohol, other drugs, foods or activities?
This is where having all your information in one place pays off. Before you take any new prescription or non-prescription medicine, ask your pharmacist about interactions. Also, find out whether the drug can cause drowsiness or affect activities like work or driving.
Should I expect side effects?
A pharmacist and doctor can help you anticipate and deal with any side effects. Should you have unexplained side effects, contact your doctor or pharmacist right away.
What if I forget to take my medication or take a wrong dose?
Making up for a missed dose depends on the drug. Taking a double dose can be deadly. Knowing what to do in advance is your safest bet.
How do I store my meds?
Medications may not be effective if not stored properly. The “medicine cabinet” is not a good place for storage because most bathrooms have a lot of moisture and heat.
Taking medication properly is an important part of your health care. Working with your pharmacist can help ensure your good health and safety.