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Teaming Up with Your Pharmacist

Who can you turn to with questions about your medicines? Besides your healthcare provider, your pharmacist can help answer questions about your medications. You may not be familiar with what your pharmacist can do for you.

Pharmacists do much more than count tablets and pour liquids. Their main job is to focus on the medications you take and the effect they have, says the American Pharmacists Association. Pharmacists want to help you get the most benefit when you take medicines.

Understanding your pharmacist's role is especially important if you are a member of a consumer-directed health plan, such as a medical savings account. These plans place more responsibility for health care decisions on your shoulders.

Taking care

Taking your medication properly is one of the best ways to decrease your health care costs. Thousands of people every year are hospitalized, don't get well, and spend more money than they should because they didn't take their medication properly.

For each prescription dispensed, your pharmacist must check to see that the information provided by the doctor is complete, that the new medication will not interact with other medications you take, that the medication and dosage are appropriate for your health condition, and that you understand the proper way to store and take the medication.

According to the American Pharmacists Association, pharmacists also conduct medication therapy reviews, provide complex medication consultations and other health and wellness services, administer immunizations, provide disease education, health coaching, and many other patient care services that can help you.

Your pharmacist can help if you keep him or her up-to-date about your health and the medications you take. For this reason, it's important to use the same pharmacy for all of your prescription services, especially if you see more than one doctor.

You should also check with your healthcare provider before taking any nonprescription medication or herbal remedy. Although over-the-counter medicines and herbal supplements don't require a prescription, they can adversely interact with your prescription medications or seriously affect another health condition.

Pharmacist 101

You probably visit your pharmacist more often than you do any other member of your health care team. Pharmacists talk to people when they're healthy and when they're sick; when they're "just browsing" or when they're concerned with an emergency; when they have specific needs; and when they are seeking advice or information.

Pharmacists can provide educational information on how to improve your diet, diabetes supplies, and smoking cessation.

Powerful medicine

Medicines have great power to heal and to improve the quality of life. But medicines also may do serious harm if not taken correctly. This is where the pharmacist's role is most important. Pharmacists who know their patients and have their medication profiles on file will be aware of possible harmful drug interactions or allergies to certain drugs.

The pharmacist can also discuss possible side effects; which foods, drinks, and activities should be avoided while on a medication; what to do if you miss a dose; and a wide range of other helpful information.