By Amy Kennard
For as many people who rely on a pharmacist to simply fill their prescriptions, even more are relying on the man or woman behind the counter for much more.
What are pharmacists?
Pharmacists are licensed health care professionals who have completed at least two years of undergraduate coursework followed by four years of pharmacy school. Pharmacists must also obtain licensure to serve in the profession. Some graduates of pharmacy programs may choose to pursue additional training through residencies or fellowships. These programs generally last one to two years and allow training pharmacists to gain direct, patient-care experience in community pharmacies, hospitals and other health care facilities.
That said, pharmacists are able to provide a wealth of information beyond simply refilling that prescription. Rob Bean, pharmacist at Axline Pharmacy in Bloomington, says that getting to know your pharmacist can often result in improved care. “I think the main benefit comes from developing a trusting relationship. If you have that good relationship, sometimes we as pharmacists may pick up some information from the patient during a casual conversation that may actually lead to better care. It also is more likely a patient will ask pertinent questions if they know and trust their pharmacist. Pharmacists are much more accessible to the patient than their doctor in many cases.”
Meet and Greet
So what’s the best way to form a good relationship with your pharmacist? Rob offers this advice. “Come in to the pharmacy. If the patient just uses the drive-thru or delivery, they may never get to know the pharmacist. Secondly, they should ask to talk to the pharmacist when they do come in. I try to greet my customers and converse with them, even if they don’t have a specific question about their meds.”
Questions to Ask
What kind of questions should you — or could you — ask your pharmacist? “Anything from the name of the medication to side effects to correct disposal and everything in between,” says Rob. The following is a list of questions that may not even occur to you when you pick up your prescription, but may help your medication to be more effective for what you need:
- What is the name of the medication, and what is it
supposed to do? It’s important to know how the medication is going to work in your body to alleviate your symptoms or condition.
- When and how do I take it? Some medications should be taken on an empty stomach; others with food. Some should be taken at the same time every day.
- How long should I take my medication? Antibiotics are most effective if you take them for the designated period of time, rather than stopping them as soon as you feel better. Other medications need to be reduced in dosage slowly as to not produce side effects.
- Could this medicine cause an allergic reaction? If you or even someone in your family has had allergic reactions to certain ingredients, your pharmacist should be able to tell you if you could have an issue with your medication.
- Should I avoid alcohol or any foods? Some medications can have heightened or even dangerous side effects when combined with alcohol or certain foods.
- Can I take non-prescription drugs, herbal medicines or other drugs with this prescription? Your pharmacist should know if you are taking any other medication, herbal supplements, or vitamins, as they could have a bearing on the effectiveness or side effects of the medication.
- Should I expect any side effects? Side effects can be mild, moderate, or sometimes severe. Knowing what to expect will enable you to gauge whether any side effects you are experiencing are “normal” or worthy of a call to your physician.
- What if I forget to take my medication or take a dose incorrectly? Ask this in advance so you know whether or not to take a medicine as soon as you realize you forgot to, or what to do if you take too large or too small of a dose.
- How should I store my medications, and how long should I keep them? Many people keep their medicines in the bathroom, but the moisture and heat can often affect their chemical makeup. Some need to be refrigerated. And all should be stored safely out of the reach of children. Many medications also lose effectiveness and should not be taken past their expiration date listed on the bottle.
Pharmacists are by nature knowledgeable, diligent, and thorough in their work, and there to serve their patients. Using them for a resource for questions or advice will help you alleviate any concerns you may have about your medication and give you yet another source of professional and accessible medical advice.
Axline Pharmacy is independently owned and offers free delivery. Pharmacists Rob Bean and Troy Williams are committed to their patients and have initiated the NCPA’s “Simplify My Meds” program. You may contact them by calling 309-828-6767 or stop by 1210 Towanda Ave in Bloomington.
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