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LOCAL VOICES: Know your pharmacist, know your medicine
by Jennifer Shannon, PharmD
October 16, 2013 11:16 AM | 7757 views | 1 1 comments | 71 71 recommendations | email to a friend | print
October is a great month for various reasons; it brings the cool, crisp fall air, football tailgates and parties, and the smell of pumpkin in our homes.  As a pharmacist, one of my favorite reasons to love October is because it is American Pharmacists Month.  Did you know that there are more than 300,000 licensed pharmacists in the U.S. who are capable of answering many of your questions regarding your medications and disease states?  This is a great time to think about setting up an appointment with your local pharmacist to discuss your medications.

Patients who know their pharmacist’s name are twice as likely to ask their pharmacist questions regarding their medications.  They are also twice as likely to have made an appointment with their pharmacist to review their medications, and are more likely to read product labels and know the active ingredient of their prescription and over-the-counter medications, which can be important in preventing an accidental overdose.

Americans spend billions of dollars on medications each year, and the most expensive medications are those that are used incorrectly.  Every year in the U.S., failure to take medications as prescribed results in 1.5 million medication-related adverse events and costs the health care system about $290 billion.  Taking your medications properly can significantly reduce your healthcare costs, and getting to know your pharmacist will help.

You should view your pharmacist and provider as a healthcare team.  Together, they can work to optimize your disease state therapy.  Pharmacists today are moving away from “just filling prescriptions” to helping patients optimize their medications by providing medication therapy management services.   At my own pharmacy, our mission is to perform these services with all our patients to improve their health outcomes.

You should choose your pharmacist as carefully as you choose your provider.  Pharmacists are the second-highest trained medical professional next to physicians and our knowledge can be very valuable in working with your provider.  Take the time to find a pharmacist that you are comfortable talking with and one that takes time to review your medications. You are ultimately responsible for your health, and if you keep your pharmacist up-to-date on your health and medications, he or she can help you to better manage your disease state in collaboration with your provider.  In the present day of coupons with prescription transfers, four dollar lists, and free medications, patients find themselves switching back and forth from pharmacy to pharmacy, often leading to poor management of their health and medication errors.  Keeping your medications at one pharmacy allows the pharmacist to have full access to your medication history no matter how many providers you may have.  Additionally, it enables us to regularly perform medication reviews to make recommendations to your provider to optimize your therapy, likely reducing your prescription costs and improving overall health.

My ultimate goal of this column is to encourage you to take the time to talk with your pharmacist regularly.  There is a direct correlation between pharmacist-patient interactions and improved health outcomes.  I hope you will take a moment to ask questions when you pick up your prescription and get to know your pharmacist.  I personally am always happy when patients want to know more about their medications and disease states.   It gives me the opportunity to get to know my patients and provide encouragement and support in their disease state management.  I couldn’t think of a better month to open the doors to Lily’s Pharmacy than October, American Pharmacists Month.  Please feel free to stop by my pharmacy any time with questions or to just say hello.  I love to get to know patients, fellow community members, and their families, and I promise to treat every patient as if they were a member of my own family. 

Examples of medication therapy management services that a pharmacy may provide:

- Annual medication check-ups to review all medications

- Prescription medication education – purpose, interactions, side-effects, timing and dosing of your prescription medications

- Advice on over-the-counter medications and supplements

- Maintaining a personal medication record that includes all medications, immunizations and health care providers

- Medication adherence reminders or counseling on ways to make it easier to take medications

- Immunizations

- Diabetes management with blood glucose monitoring, proper insulin injection technique

- Health maintenance guidance - smoking cessation, asthma care, nutrition management, body mass index (BMI) screenings

- Cardiovascular disease management – blood pressure and cholesterol screenings.

Dr. Shannon is an Ambulatory Care Pharmacist and owner of Lily’s Pharmacy of Johns Creek, named for her daughter, Lily, which will be opening at the end of this month. Her areas of special interest include anticoagulation, cholesterol management, diabetes, heart failure and hypertension. Visit for more information about her patient care services.

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