If you still think of your local pharmacist as just the person who fills your prescriptions, you’re shortchanging yourself. This medical professional can be a key member of your health-care team, offering valuable information and services without the cost of a doctor’s office visit.
Mohamed A. Jalloh, PharmD, shared eight surprising ways your pharmacist can help you better manage your health. He or she can…
Review your current medications. Your pharmacist knows how each of your medications works and what you should expect from taking it, including side effects and ways to avoid them—tips that your doctor may not have given you when prescribing it. Take advantage of this knowledge by scheduling a “medication checkup”—a review of any and all meds you currently take as well as supplements and over-the-counter drugs. Your pharmacist will look for any potential negative interactions among the drugs you’re taking. This is especially important if you’re on medications prescribed by different doctors or on supplements those doctors may not know you’re taking. (For example, St. John’s wort, an over-the-counter herbal supplement, is often taken for depression but can decrease the effectiveness of some drugs such as blood pressure medications, says Jalloh.) To save you time, your pharmacist can coordinate refills to reduce the number of trips you take to the drugstore.
Give more than the flu shot. Pharmacists can also administer immunizations for pneumonia, shingles, tetanus, hepatitis A and B, human papillomavirus and vaccines for international travel.
Help you know when over-the-counter remedies aren’t enough. Whether you’re suffering from cold and allergy symptoms, dry eyes, bug bites or constipation, talk to your pharmacist about your symptoms. He knows what questions to ask you…and can then advise you on whether an over-the-counter med will likely help or whether you really should see a doctor.
Show you ways to avoid medication side effects. Beyond whether to take a medication with food or water, your pharmacist can tell you how to time different meds so that they’ll work best without affecting your quality of life. For example, the common antidepressant drug fluoxetine has a stimulant effect, so if you take it close to bedtime, you may have trouble sleeping, says Jalloh—so a good pharmacist will advise you to take it in the morning.
Help keep you on track with taking your meds. Sticking with a medication plan is a challenge for a large number of Americans. Your pharmacist may be able to help you choose the right pill organizer or a phone app to better manage or track your medications.
Give guidance when you’re buying medical supplies. Pharmacists are in the know about devices used to manage chronic conditions. Example: If you’re shopping for a blood pressure cuff, your pharmacist will tell you that the ones you place on the wrist may be easier to use but aren’t as accurate as the upper-arm models, says Jalloh. Before you buy any medical device, get your pharmacist’s opinion.
Save you money on drugs. Some medications are more affordable if you buy them straight from the pharmacy, so always ask your pharmacist to check whether a drug is cheaper through the pharmacy’s special-pricing program, if available, says Jalloh. And unless your doctor has specified brand-only, a pharmacist is legally allowed to substitute a less expensive, generic version without a call to your health-care provider.
Dispense emergency refills. If you run out of or lose a supply of a drug that you’ve been taking for a long time, your pharmacist may be able to give you up to a 72-hour supply on an emergency basis while you wait to get a renewal prescription from your doctor. (This emergency refill practice varies state by state.) Note: He won’t do this for any controlled substances such as those with a high risk for abuse such as opioids. Take note: While your pharmacist can’t prescribe most medications, depending on your state, he might be able to independently dispense drugs that you and he agree might benefit you such as naloxone (Narcan) used to reverse an overdose of opioid pain medication…nicotine-replacement medications…and oral contraceptives, notes Jalloh.
Bottom line: Developing a relationship with your local pharmacist is simply good for your health and simple to start—all you need to do is ask.