Ask your pharmacist

Ask your pharmacist

Isobel over at ChronicBabe found out from watching Showtime that the antidepressant Celexa was the likely culprit in her loss of libido. Her doctors didn’t mention anything till she asked, and then didn’t seem to be particularly knowledgeable. Patients assume their doctors know a lot about medications, but that’s often not the case.

A readily available resource that is often overlooked is the pharmacist. Pharmacists typically have six years of training about drugs and know an awful lot. If the local pharmacy doesn’t have a private consultation area, ask the pharmacist for his or her card and give them a call from home. Pharmacists vary in their counseling skills, but it shouldn’t be hard to find one you are comfortable with. What’s more, they don’t charge for consultations and are easy to get hold of.

May 1, 2006

7 thoughts on “Ask your pharmacist”

  1. What some people don’t realize is that often physicians (at least the good ones) will call a pharmacist before prescribing something. At least I’ve seen it in the hospital where they are readily available.

    But you are right, they are an excellent resource.

  2. Right on about the pharmacists having the knowledge. And every time I have come home from the pharmacist for the last 10 years, there’s a large piece of paper in my bag that explains possible side effects. There’s also a paperback called “The Pill Book” that sits on my shelf. Pick it up cheap on Amazon. If human interaction isn’t your thing, you could just READ to learn what you need to know.

    Anecdotes like this exemplify for me why this notion of shifting healthcare responsibility onto the individual is flawed and doomed to failure. This woman, who I’m sure is sensible in most other respects of her life, didn’t bother to educate herself about a manufactured chemical she was putting in her body, because someone with MD after their name told her it was a good idea. And why would she be skeptical? The smartest among us learn to trust those with more education than ourselves. And who has more education than a doctor?

  3. To be fair, the monographs from most drug stores aren’t so easy to read. It can be hard to sort out the common side effects from the rare ones, for example.

    I was intrigued by a recent poll from Accenture that asked people to name their most trusted source of medication information. 61% said doctors, 16% pharmacists, and 13% online medical sites. Seems to me that docs are overrated and pharmacists underrated.

    http://www.accenture.com/xd/xd.asp?it=enweb&xd=_dyndynamicpressrelease_983.xml

  4. As a physician practicing primary care, I have always found pharmacists to be an invaluable resource. Many patients are on an extensive list of medications, with a miriad of potential interactions. Adding a new medicine can cause unforseen, potentially deadly interactions. Ideally doctors will use a combination of their own knowledge, available written and online resources and a brief consultation with a trusted pharmacist when adding any new prescription medication to a patient’s regimen. I personally encourage my patients to use the same pharmacy for all their medications- this increases the likelihood that an attentive pharmacist will pick up a potential drug-drug interaction that I have overlooked. In a more perfect world, one could imagine a pharmacy that had access to the important elements of the prescriber’s electronic medical record so that laboratory studies relevant to medication dosing (renal function, liver function) could be reviewed by the pharmacist. This is already a reality at a number of academic and private hospitals for inpatient prescribing.

  5. I’ve worked in one pharmacy setting or another for the past 8 years and graduate from pharmacy school next week. I would love nothing better than to answer some valid concerns or questions than a patient has for me:) Providing info for patients whose health outcomes may improve is the entire reason I became a pharmacist.

  6. Pharmacists are a good resource. However, its not right to expect them to give you free consultations. Their time is valuable, just like the doctor, just like the lawyer, and they deserve to be compensated for it.

    If patients started flooding pharmacists with questions about their drugs, I bet you would see a push to start charging for that service and rightfully so.

  7. “Seems to me that docs are overrated and pharmacists underrated.”

    Ummm, depends on the complexity of the disease and the complexity of the treatment options. Pharmacists are drug experts, but they are not experts in pathology or pathophysiology, which directly influence which drug you should be given.

    If you got a question about a SPECIFIC DRUG, with no reference to impact on pathophysiology, then yes the pharmacist should be the first contact. However, if you have a more complex question that involves pathophysiology, then the doctor is the best resource.

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