October is American Pharmacists Month - Know Your Pharmacist, Know Your Medicine



WASHINGTON, DC — October is American Pharmacists Month and the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) reminds the public to make an appointment to discuss their medications with their pharmacist. There are over 300,000 licensed pharmacists in the U.S. Pharmacists are able to talk in plain, non-medical language to help patients understand their medications and health conditions.

Getting to know your pharmacist can help you become more familiar with the medicines you use. Consumers who know their pharmacist’s name are twice as likely to ask their pharmacist the questions they have. They are also twice as likely to have made an appointment with the pharmacist to discuss their medications, more likely to read product labels and more likely to know the main (active) ingredients in their prescription medications, over-the-counter products, herbal supplements, vitamins and minerals (Knowing the main ingredients is key to avoiding accidental overdose of an active ingredient contained in multiple medications, or conflicts between and among the active ingredients).

Americans spend billions of dollars each year on prescription and over-the-counter medications. This money is wasted if the medications are used incorrectly. In fact, the most expensive medications are those that don’t work properly—or cause harm due to misuse. Every year in the U.S., failure to take medications as prescribed causes more than 1.5 million preventable medication-related adverse events and costs the health care system approximately $290 billion. Taking your medication correctly is one of the best ways to decrease your health care costs. The likelihood of medication errors occurring decreases substantially when patients know their pharmacist and feel comfortable asking questions and seeking the pharmacists’ advice.

Medications are powerful, that’s why they work. Your pharmacist and your prescriber are part of a health care team, working to ensure the best selection and management of your prescription and nonprescription medicines. Pharmacists are medication experts on this team and the profession is expanding in new directions to meet the health care needs of all people — moving from ‘making medications’ to helping patients ‘make their medications work’—by providing medication therapy management (MTM) services.

In addition to MTM services, many pharmacists offer a broad array of education, prevention and wellness services to help patients improve their health and get the most out of their medications:

  • Annual Medication check-ups to review all medications, including action plan, documentation and follow-up visits as necessary
  • Prescription medication education — purpose, interactions, side-effects, timing and dosing of your prescription medications
  • Advice on over-the-counter medication, herbal supplements, vitamins or minerals for your condition or lifestyle
  • Assistance filling out 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
  • Seasonal and life-span immunizations
  • Diabetes care guidance - continuous blood glucose monitoring, proper insulin injection technique, foot care and eye care
  • Health maintenance counseling and guidance - smoking cessation, asthma care, nutrition management, exercise and physical activity instruction, body mass index (BMI) screenings, skin care and dental care
  • Healthy heart management and counseling — blood pressure and cholesterol screenings

You should choose your pharmacist as carefully as you choose your doctor. Find a pharmacist that you are comfortable talking with, and one who takes the time to help you with your medications. Ultimately, you have the responsibility for managing your health care, but your pharmacist can help if you keep him or her up-to-date about your health and the medications you are taking. For this reason, it is important to use the same pharmacy for all of your prescription services, especially when seeing multiple health care providers. This ensures that your pharmacist has access to your complete medication history when checking for problems or possible interactions.

The goal of American Pharmacists Month is to encourage these consumer-pharmacist interactions. There is a clear relationship between the consumer, their pharmacist and the consumer’s knowledge of how to use medications with lower risk of adverse effects and better health outcomes. American Pharmacists Month opens the door for pharmacists to reach out to their patients by highlighting the profession. It encourages pharmacists to participate in promotional events and activities to heighten awareness of the services they offer and help consumers get to know them better. This coincides with the annual theme: Know Your Pharmacist, Know Your Medicine.

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