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What Does a Pharmacist Do?

By , BPharm

There are many tasks that a pharmacist is responsible for each day. Pharmacists are some of the most accessible members of the healthcare team, as individuals can seek their advice quickly and easily, even without an appointment.

Pharmacist taking medicine from shelf in the pharmacy - Image Copyright: wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock
Pharmacist taking medicine from shelf in the pharmacy - Image Copyright: wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock

Filling Prescriptions

This is the most widely recognized task of a pharmacist, which involves the organizing of the medications required by patients, and getting them ready to be used.

The process of filling a prescription is not always as simple as is commonly believed. A pharmacist needs to double-check the medication that the doctor has recommended for the patient, and make sure it is appropriate for the patient, particularly in view of the other drugs being taken by the same patient.

In some cases, there may be a drug interaction or potential dangerous adverse effect with the prescription. The pharmacist may need to call the doctor to confirm the choice of drug, or make a recommendation such as a change in dose.

Finally, a pharmacist dispenses the medication with the relevant information for the patient involved, so that the patient is able to benefit most from the use of the drug.

To accomplish this, pharmacists need to ensure that the premises, the drug quality, the supply chain and the dispensing standards are up to the mark. They need to be aware of the regulations surrounding their field of work as well.

Preparing Medications

Not every medication available in a pharmacy is ready-made to be dispensed for the patient. Some may need to be prepared by the pharmacist for patient use.

Some medications require simple preparation techniques, such as adding water to powder in a bottle to form a solution. Specific creams and ointments can also be prepared by a pharmacist, who will ensure that the right concentration of the active ingredients is mixed evenly throughout the preparation.

Additionally, a pharmacist who work in a compounding pharmacy may need to prepare more complex medications. This can include formulation of some medications from scratch, such as filling capsules, or making other formulated medications that are not available commercially.

Providing Advice

There is a specific way to take each medication to ensure it has the greatest margin of safety and will produce the most effect, which can differ from drug to drug and patient to patient.

For example, some drugs are best taken at a certain time of day, such as just before eating or before bedtime. Pharmacists can make sure the patients know about the best way to take the medication. They also know how the medicine should be stored and used.

Additionally, the advice about the way the drug is to be taken may be different for each person. It varies with factors such as the age, weight and gender of the patient, and other concurrent medication or health conditions.

A pharmacist needs to gather all of the relevant information and provide personalized advice to patients about how they can get the most out of their medications.

Other Health Services

A pharmacist is often the health professional that a patient sees most often, with each refill of the prescription and in order to fill new prescriptions.  Based on this information, a pharmacist can also check in on how a patient is doing with the medicines and the overall health situation. This is often helpful in identifying and managing health or medication-related problems before they become more serious.

In addition, pharmacists supply non-prescription health products including those needed to nurse the sick.

Depending on the country that the pharmacist is working in, there are several other health services that they may be able to offer to patients.

For example, they may be able to help patients in checking their blood pressure, or provide patients with their annual flu vaccination. They may also be able to provide a “MedsCheck” to reassess the medications a patient is taking and provide advice on how to improve health outcomes. Some community pharmacies offer programs to help with managing smoking cessation, diabetes mellitus, hyperlipidemia and asthma. They may help choose the best equipment for home exercise set-ups.

Alternative Work Places

The tasks of a pharmacist discussed thus far are primarily those of a community pharmacist, who works in a local pharmacy. However, there are various other types of pharmacists, such as those that work in a hospital, consulting firm or pharmaceutical industry, who may perform other varied tasks. Research or industrial pharmacists work on developing and testing new and old drugs for a variety of applications. Regulatory pharmacists help develop drug standards and laws on the production and distributions standards with respect to medicines.

Reviewed by Dr Liji Thomas, MD.

References

Further Reading

    Last Updated: Aug 8, 2016

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