How could a pharmacist know more than your doctor?Alexandr III/Shutterstock
First, your pharmacist knows all kinds of secrets that could help you, so perhaps it’s time to start tapping into this under-utilized health resource. A study published in June 2017 in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology revealed one thing pharmacists know more about than physicians: penicillin allergy. Apparently, 78 percent of pharmacists knew penicillin allergy can resolve over time, while only 55 percent of physicians did. And it doesn’t stop there. “Pharmacists generally know a lot more about drugs than doctors,” writes David E. Williams, President of Health Business Group, on MedCityNews. “Plus they’re available in convenient locations and at convenient times. You don’t need an appointment and don’t have to pay. Pharmacists are loathe to second guess doctors, but get to know one and you’ll find they are a great source of information and will even give you their professional opinion on whether you are on the right drug.”
Tadeh Vartanian, PharmD, clinical pharmacist at CHA Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, adds that pharmacists play an integral role in the healthcare system by serving as a bridge between different specialties. “The knowledge that they possess beyond that of a physician will really depend on that physician’s specialty,” says Vartanian. “So although, for instance, a cardiologist may know the various antiarrhythmic agents very well, he or she may be less familiar with antibiotic agents, and specifically if any of them could affect the cardiovascular drugs that patient is taking. Pharmacists are the specialists that take all of that medical knowledge and bring it together to catch these types of potential errors, among many others.”
They know what’s in your medsAlexandr III/Shutterstock
Your physician might be your first port of call if you’re ill, but when it comes to what’s actually in the drugs they’ve prescribed, your pharmacist is your go-to man or woman. After all, they spent six to eight years in pharmacy school, learning about medicinal chemistry, pathophysiology and pharmacotherapy. “Pharmacists have more training and knowledge than physicians on how medications are made into pills, patches, etc. and how medications are absorbed and distributed in the body, metabolized, and excreted,” says Sally Rafie, PharmD, Pharmacist Specialist at UC San Diego Health. Crucially, pharmacists are also aware of inactive ingredients in medications that may be problematic for people with allergies, and can advise how to take medications properly (with food, on an empty stomach, with a glass of water, etc). (Did you know that there is a right time to take “once a day” meds?)
They monitor your medication useAlexandr III/Shutterstock
Pharmacists are the one specialist who will do a great job at tracking your meds, which includes knowing what side effects to look out for, says Rafie. So if you’re experiencing some unexpected or undesirable effects of taking a new drug (for example a loss of sex drive while taking antidepressants or stomach pains from high cholesterol meds), your pharmacist is a great person to ask for advice. Pharmacists also study how medications interact with other drugs and conditions (pharmacodynamics), meaning you’re safe in their hands if you’re taking multiple meds. “In many complex or chronic medical conditions, pharmacists are the experts at managing the medications,” says Rafie. “Examples include high cholesterol, heart failure, transplant, diabetes, kidney disease, HIV, and so much more.” Here are 10 questions to ask before taking prescription meds.