We must value the vital role of pharmacists in our well-being

Friday November 8 2019

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By Dr Chris Peterson sonchrispeter@gmail.com

When I was little, I recall the day my uncle took me to a walk-in clinic for treatment following a 2-day long persistent fever. After all was done, from consultation to lab tests, that guided my doctor to reach into conclusion on what I was diagnosed with, he prescribed medications and directed me and my uncle to the pharmacy window where we could access them.

There by the window, I met this gentleman, with empathic face, waiting to serve us. “Pole sana bwana mdogo, tupo kwa ajili yako kuhakikisha utapona haraka iwezekanavyo” he consoled me, loosely translated as ‘we are here for you to get better’. I said, “Asante sana”.

My uncle then handed over the piece of paper given to us by the doctor, for him to proceed.

After taking a look at my prescription, he realised that something was wrong with my dosage and that it needed to be readjusted according to the strength of that particular medicine.

“The prescription needs to be corrected,” the pharmacist asserted and asked us to take it back to the doctor for confirmation. My uncle reacted negatively to the pharmacist’s response on the basis that how on earth could a doctor do something wrong for the pharmacist to correct it? “No it might be you that is wrong here, may be you don’t understand what the doctor has written. Please don’t waste our time,” said my uncle.

Today, being in the medical field and when I recall this incident, I understand where this professional inequality comes from. Patients and physicians don’t acknowledge the role and importance of pharmacists in our well-being. All they perceive is that pharmacists are just the “common drug sellers” and they tend to make classes between medical professionals especially when it comes to a doctor and pharmacist and that’s why even when the doctor is wrong and the pharmacist is right, they will always believe the former.

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One thing everyone needs to know is that pharmacist knows more about drugs than doctors. Your doctor might be your first port of call if you’re ill, but when it comes to what’s actually in the drugs your doctor prescribed, your pharmacist is your go-to person. After all, they spent years in pharmacy school, learning about medicinal chemistry, pathophysiology and pharmacotherapy. Pharmacists have more training and knowledge than doctors on how medications are made into pills, patches, and how medications are absorbed and distributed in the body, metabolised.

And let’s not forget that pharmacists serve as the last double-check before you get home with your medication. They check dosing, strength, directions, and to make sure you’re receiving the right drug. Your pharmacist’s checks to make sure none of your medications interact with each other, which ones to avoid with certain types of foods, and which ones you should take on an empty stomach.

I’ve also come across patients who will ask me how much a drug costs. I honestly have no idea since it depends on so many factors. But your local pharmacist knows the answer. One of the most useful, but a little known secret of pharmacists is they may be able to negotiate with your insurance to minimise cost for patients. This is an important service especially for patients with limited income.

Learn to value your pharmacist. Your doctor can only diagnose you, but for your successful treatment, your pharmacist plays a vital role.

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