Think all a pharmacist does is dispense medications to fill prescriptions?
The truth is, pharmacists love nothing more than to get out from behind the counter and answer questions from patients. So don’t be shy.
“We’re here to help the patient,” said Stephanie Lively, PharmD, BCPS, drug information and drug policy pharmacist at Augusta University Health. “So ask questions. At the end of the day, that’s what we’re all about.”
After all, pharmacists receive four years of training in order to become experts on all types of medications and their side effects—and they often provide other health services, too.
Easily available without an appointment, your pharmacist can become your best resource for any medications you are taking and can provide advice on other health issues, too—which is why it’s a good idea to commit to one pharmacy so that your medication record is housed in a single place.
Not sure what your pharmacist can help you with? Here are few ideas to help you start the conversation:
So do I need to be worried about any drug interactions?
Your prescription comes with a full description of any possible drug or food interactions, but for a quick overview, ask your pharmacist.
“We’re happy to take the time to go through your medication list to help minimize any interactions,” Lively said.
Certain medications may require you to hold off on that glass of wine, for example.
Am I on too many medications?
If you or a loved one is taking many pills every day—and you’re a little unsure of why some of the medications are needed—it may be time for a medication review. Your pharmacist can sit down with you to review all the drugs you’re currently taking and, in conjunction with your physician, determine if you still need to be on all of them. They may also be able to recommend combination medications so that you can take fewer pills.
I have to drive to the pharmacy just about once or twice a week to get refills.
Yes, your pharmacist can even help with that!
“If you’re on regular medications, we can help synchronize them. They’ll then be on the same schedule, and you can pick them all up at the same time every month or every three months,” Wimpey said.
I need a shot.
We’ve all seen the advertisements about our local pharmacies offering flu shots. But did you know that pharmacists can also provide vaccinations against pneumonia, shingles and meningococcal infections, all without a prescription? You can also contact your doctor for a prescription for nearly any vaccination, which your pharmacist can then administer.
“The major benefit is being able to walk right in and get your vaccine in 30 minutes or less, without having to make an appointment,” Wimpey said.
Which over-the-counter product is right for me?
Need help navigating the seemingly hundreds of cough and cold medicines available? Wondering if a certain OTC medicine is appropriate for your child or baby?
“It never hurts to doublecheck,” Lively said, “and we can always help with those kinds of questions.”
How much is that again?
“Don’t be afraid to ask your pharmacist about any discounts or generic options to help reduce your medication costs,” Wimpey said.
If your physician has prescribed a brand-name drug, your pharmacist can switch it to a lower-cost generic if it is considered equivalent by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration—or he or she can contact your doctor for another prescription for a generic option. Many drug manufacturers now offer “copay cards” that reduce the cost of medications, sometimes by significant amounts. Just make sure to read the fine print to fully understand the available discount and any limitations.
Remember that you have a role, too
Open communication is necessary to build trust in any relationship. So don’t hesitate to be upfront, especially with your pharmacist, about any medical condition you might have that could lead to a drug interaction.
“Are you pregnant, or do you have a kidney or liver problem? Are you allergic to red dye or peanuts? You may not think it will make a difference, but the more information you share, the better able we are to reduce the risk you’ll have an allergic reaction or take something that’s inappropriate,” Wimpey said.
“We want you to be an advocate for your own health care,” Lively added.