October Is American Pharmacists Month

These days, pharmacists are serving a very important role in keeping people safe and healthy. In local pharmacies, in senior living communities and in hospitals, pharmacists are definitely an essential service during the COVID-19 pandemic! And right now, pharmacists are offering flu shots, which are especially important this year.

In 2020 and every year, pharmacists serve a vital role in keeping older patients safe. An October 2020 poll from the University of Michigan noted that a medication review by a pharmacist can help seniors avoid dangerous interactions between medications—especially challenging, because many older adults take five or more medications. The poll found that many seniors are missing out on this valuable service, even though Medicare Part D covers these reviews.

“Taking your medication correctly is one of the best ways to decrease your health care costs. Each year, thousands of people end up in the hospital, fail to get better and waste money because they did not take their medication properly,” noted the American Pharmacists Association. “Pharmacists are the medication experts. You might not realize it, but they do much more than count tablets and pour liquids.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says pharmacists protect the health of patients in a number of ways:

Talking to patients about their medicines. The pharmacist can explain what a medicine is for, how best to use it, what side effects might occur, and what to do in the case of side effects.

Suggesting ways to help patients take their medicines. Pharmacists help patients learn how to take medicines as directed, and offer suggestions for managing them—for example, a certain routine, or tools such as a daily pillbox to help patients take their medicine at the right time and the right dose. Pharmacists also help patients connect to prescription discounts and aid programs.

Discussing medicine safety. Pharmacists give patients important advice on which over-the-counter drug products, such as pain medicines and dietary supplements, are safe to use in combination with their prescription medications.

Identifying and helping manage health problems. Here’s an example: If a patient has their blood pressure checked at the drugstore, they can share their numbers with the pharmacist. The pharmacist can talk to them about their risk for high blood pressure, help them monitor their blood pressure, and direct them to medical care if needed. The pharmacist might also consult with the patient’s doctor.

Helping patients manage other heath conditions. Pharmacists can provide immunizations, including our all-important yearly flu shot, and teach patients how to use health equipment such as blood glucose monitors for people with diabetes and inhalers for those with asthma.

Working with a patient’s healthcare team. If a patient is experiencing side effects or is having trouble taking medications correctly, the pharmacist can talk to their doctor. And pharmacists can alert doctors if a newly prescribed medication might interact badly with another drug—before a problem occurs.

The information in this article is not intended to replace the advice of your healthcare provider. If you have questions about the medications you take, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.

Source: IlluminAge with information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Pharmacists Association and the University of Michigan.