9 Things Your Pharmacist Wants to Tell You

By , By Alexandra Gekas of WomansDay.com
Prescription drug use in the U.S. has steadily been on the rise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2007-2008, the number of Americans who had recently taken prescription drugs rose to 48 percent, a jump from 44 percent 10 years earlier. If you are part of this growing trend of prescription drug takers, it's important to learn as much as you can about your medication, like why you are taking it and what the potential side effects are—and pharmacists can help provide this vital information. Woman's Day spoke with three pharmacists to find out what patients need to keep in mind when it comes to prescription medication. From protecting your family from drug abuse to opting for generic brands, here are nine things your pharmacist wants you to know.
1. Pharmacists are medical experts.
While you may think pharmacists are more like technicians, they're actually far more qualified than that. "A lot of people think the level of competence ends at making sure you get the right drug in the right bottle," says Wendy Duncan, Pharm.D, dean of pharmacy at the St. Louis College of Pharmacy. "That's an important part of what a pharmacist does, but they're also the most highly educated health professional in the area of medication. They know more than physicians about medications and doses, their side effects, the kind of forms they're in…everything." And this should be reassuring, adds Keith Hodges, Pharm.D, owner of Gloucester Pharmacy in Gloucester, Virginia, because your pharmacist is the last line of defense between you and your medication.

2. You're not asking enough questions.
Being educated about your medication and its possible side effects is crucial to keeping yourself safe. And unfortunately not enough people take the extra steps to educate themselves. "A lot of people feel embarrassed to ask questions, but health literacy is a really, really big problem in the United States," Dr. Duncan says. Dr. Hodges strongly agrees. "I can't tell you how many people come in and don't know what their medication is for. People need to know what they're taking. They should know all the medications they're taking, what they're used for, and their possible complications," he says. "Knowledge makes a healthier patient."

3. Follow your dosage instructions!
Admit it: You've been guilty of skipping one of your pills and just taking two the next time, or even stopping altogether once you're feeling better. Not only can this be dangerous to your health, but it's actually dangerous to us all. "Once people feel better, they stop taking the medication. But what ends up happening is they have a little antibiotic left around, and they might use it when they feel sick again. But antibiotics are very directed, so if it's for a specific bacterium it may not work. So you can develop resistance," says Dr. Duncan. "And over time, it means an antibiotic becomes ineffective so we have to find new entities and that takes a long time. Like MRSA [methicillin-resistant staph infection] right now; people die from that. And it's something people are shocked about because we've only had antibiotics around for a half a century. So if we're not careful, we may lose antibiotics and we'll end up in the same situation our great, great grandparents were in." If you have stopped taking your medications, or continually miss doses, be sure to contact your pharmacist or physician immediately to find out how to proceed.

What else does your pharmacist want to tell you?

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Do you ask your pharmacist questions or do you just grab your pills and go?

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i asked for advice about taking asprin and got never hear of that so now what i am going to trust him or what the paperwork said and the computer? Report
I love my pharmacist. I mean, do you know how much of their schooling goes into the chemistry of it and the physiological effects of medications? My doctor prescribes my medications and any questions afterwards go to my pharmacist. They always answer the phone, always take me seriously, give me their time, and never have to say, "A nurse will call you back".

I am not anti-doctor at all. I just know things like when my grandfather-in-law was on his deathbed and unable to respond (93 years old), after a few days of his conditioning worsening, they called a PHARMACIST and a PSYCHIATRIST in to look at his medication charts and find out what was giving the adverse reaction. They both looked at it, gave their suggestion, and it was an immediate turnaround. The nurses and doctors point blank told us that a psychiatrist or pharmacist were the ones who would figure it out.

It was then I realized the extensive training with medication these two professionals get. It is no offense to other medical professionals, I just know that when it comes to medications and their effects and adverse effects, a pharmacist and psychiatrist are the way to go. Report
I wonder if drug reps solicit pharmacists as they do the docs prescribing the meds? Report
I've always found pharmasists very helpful and knowlegable. Report
If I'm getting a new medication, I ask the pharmacist lots of questions! He knows my history almost as well as my doctor, and always has time to answer. If it's my regular thyroid meds, I grab and go! Report
I have never missed a pill dose, taken extra, or stopped my medication early. Why would I do these things??

And I always ask a bunch of questions to make sure I'm taking it properly. They always seem a bit annoyed and busy. Report
I love my CVS pharmacist she always answers all my questions on prescribed and over the counter drugs.and if she sees me in the store she alway says Hi and asks how I'm doing. Report
I've found pharmacists to be extremely helpful. Whenever I have asked a question, they've always replied with intelligent answers. They'll even tell me when a generic brand may be available for a medication I need.

A pharmacist quite likely saved my life when my (former) physician prescribed me codeine for a cough along with predinsone for inflammation (for a sinus infection the antibiotic she gave me hadn't helped). It turns out that taken together, they can be toxic. When I confronted her about this (and her refusal to change the antibiotic to something that would work), she trotted out her "years of medical school". I responded with my even more years experience with this body, and the upshot was that I went to a different doctor, got a different treatment, and cleared up in two days what she hadn't been able to clear up in two weeks. Report
I call my BFF who is a pharmacist long before I call a doctor...my doctor when recommending new meds for me, alwyas has to pull out a PDR before knowing what to give me, she knows without looking in a book. I'm not anti-doctor either, i just prefer to be diagnosed by them and medicated by my pharmacist. Report
I don't know why people say this article is 'anti-doctor' . It mostly just gave the usual warnings about storing/using/managing medications. I worked at a drugstore in highschool so I know how much training the pharmacists have. That said-I feel that many people (including myself) feel uncomfortable discussing their medicine with someone other than their doctor. I think its mostly the environment of the pharmacy-who wants to ask the guy at the counter questions in front of other customers who are waiting in line behind you? Maybe pharmacies should have a booth or something so people who want to ask more questions can have a little privacy... Report
I always ask the parmacist if I have any questions about a medication I picked up. Report
This may have been written by a journalist, but as a person who has three friends who are pharmacists, I know that they constantly comment on these issues. I am never hesitant to go ask them about medications prescribed and to get feedback from them. I believe being educated about the medications I am taking will make a huge difference in my care now and in the future! Report
The author is not a pharmacist, but a Woman's Day journalist, (at least, that's where the link goes) so the title is misleading. And that means the information is 'spun' for journalistic reasons. This is one area SP is weak on--the daily spark blogs from 'guest' bloggers (especially unnamed ones) made to sound like specialists. Report
This article wasn't anti-doctor. Doctor's are trained in many various aspects of healthcare. Their main focus is diagnosis by interpreting lab results, x-ray, physical assessment, etc. And treatment choice, which may include medications, physical therapy, occupational therapy, surgery, etc. Pharmacists are trained in medications. Pharmacists are the experts in medications only. There is no way a physician can keep up with every medication dose, frequency, side effect profile, drug interaction profile and herb interaction profile, especially with all the new medications that come out every day. Report
I have to say I am getting very tired of the anti-doctor articles on this website Report
I have to say I am getting very tired of the anti-doctor articles on this website Report
Thank you for including this, only last week my husband and I had an argument over who was more qualified in the field of pharmaceuticals. I'm a pharmacy tech trained in the UK and he is a paramedic trained in CA and IL. Report
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