Getting The Most Out of Your Pharmacy Visit

Medical Author: Omudhome Ogbru, Pharm.D.
Medical Editor: Jay Marks, M.D.

Although most people have visited a pharmacy, very few people are aware of all of the services that pharmacists can provide. What goes on behind the pharmacy's glass partition? Why does it take so long to get a prescription filled? This article discusses the role of the community pharmacist in providing healthcare and provides advice on getting the most out of each visit to the pharmacy.

The community pharmacist is primarily responsible for accurately filling prescriptions and ensuring that patients have enough information to effectively and safely use medications. Before a patient leaves the pharmacy with a medication, the pharmacist must be certain that the patient has the right medication, correct dose, and directions for use.

The pharmacist also provides information about how the drug works and its potential side effects and ensures that there are no contraindications to the medication (medical reasons for a patient to avoid the medication) and no potentially harmful interactions with other drugs the patient may take, foods the patient may eat, or diseases that the patient may have. The pharmacist does this by transcribing the doctor's prescription accurately, interviewing and counseling the patient, and using his or her knowledge of the condition that is being treated and the effects of the prescribed drug.

Since the pharmacist is usually the last healthcare professional to have contact with patients before they receive their medications, they are the final step in a system of checks and balances designed to ensure that medications are used safely and effectively. If the pharmacist believes that there is a problem with the prescription, he or she calls the prescribing doctor in order to review the prescription. For example, the wrong drug or dose may have been prescribed or the pharmacist may determine that there is a safer or more effective medication than the one that has been prescribed.