What Role Should the Pharmacist Play in Antibiotic Prescribing?

February 23, 2015

Once a prescription for an antibiotic has been written, is there anything a pharmacist should do aside from filling it?

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 80% of Americans are prescribed antibiotics every year, but up to half of those estimated 258 million prescriptions are needless.

Jesse Goodman, director of Georgetown University’s Center on Medical Product Access, Safety, and Stewardship, told The Washington Post that this is a “culture” problem and advised that “patient and doctor must understand these drugs are precious resources. The more we use them, and the more unwisely, the more resistance.”

What role should the pharmacist play in addressing this issue? Once a prescription has been written, is there anything a pharmacist should do aside from filling it?

I might suggest that pharmacists have an obligation to at least make the patient aware of the importance of using antibiotics judiciously as we talk to them about the prescription we are dispensing. It is probably not the place to try to talk them out of having the prescription filled, although that may be possible to do on occasion.

More importantly is the need for pharmacists to realize the important role they can play in antibiotic stewardship through both patient and physician education. Hospital pharmacists have taken the lead on this, and I believe community pharmacists can, too.