5 Things Pharmacists Can Do and 2 Things They Can’t

If you’re simply using your local pharmacist as a means to pick up prescription medication, you’re missing out on the wealth of knowledge inherent in members of the profession. Your pharmacy may be located in a CVS or Rite Aid, but don’t let this blind you to the fact that it is still run by knowledgeable medical staff.

Pharmacists require certifications and schooling for often more than four years. Pharmacist profiles such as Patrick Ledapo’s can also be found on sites where one also might search for doctors. That said, while your pharmacist may be up-to-date on all the latest prescriptions and medication interactions, they aren’t physicians and therefore have limitations.

To learn how to use your pharmacy most effectively, read about these five things pharmacists can do and two things they can’t.

1. Pharmacists can explain the purpose of a medication

While the doctor prescribing your medication will most likely have described its purpose, this can be easily forgotten (especially if you’re managing multiple prescriptions).

Instead of scheduling a call with your doctor or putting blind trust into the internet, try asking your pharmacist to describe the possible uses for the medication. They won’t have complete access to your medical history to give you a customized answer, but they can provide critical dosing guidance.

2. Pharmacists can’t prescribe most medications

Despite having access to the plethora of medications behind the counter, most pharmacists are not licensed to sell them to you without your doctor’s permission.

Similarly, pharmacists cannot change your medication’s dosages or refill your prescription more times than is listed.

Pharmacists won’t have trouble acquiring over-the-counter remedies for you, though. So feel free to ask them for information about drugs sold at the pharmacy that do not require prescriptions.

If you need your prescriptions modified, you’re best off making an appointment with your doctor instead.

3. Pharmacists can describe how to administer medication

Many types of medications have administration procedures that don’t involve swallowing pills. Whether the medication is dissolved in liquid, dropped in your eye, or even applied topically, your pharmacist will know which route and how often your medication should be administered.

4. Pharmacists can give basic health screenings and wellness advice

Simple health checks such as taking your blood pressure and checking your cholesterol can easily be performed at your local pharmacy. Similarly, in some states, your pharmacist will be able to perform diagnostic tests for simple ailments such as colds and the flu. However, if you schedule an appointment for a more serious condition or have unusual symptoms, don’t be surprised if all that you’re given is a referral to a doctor.

5. Pharmacists can give immunizations

Most states in the U.S. will let pharmacies administer flu and other types of vaccines directly to patients. Sometimes you’ll even be able to double up on vaccinations to save yourself from making two trips. Pharmacies in the U.S. have recently been given the go-ahead to administer both Covid-19 and flu vaccines in the same visit.

6. Pharmacists can’t diagnose 

Though there is a good chance your pharmacy will be able to perform diagnostic tests such as rapid antigen tests, pharmacists can’t diagnose conditions or illnesses themselves. However, don’t let their inability to make diagnoses discourage you from asking for advice. After all, they are still medical professionals.

7.Pharmacies can dispose of unwanted prescriptions

Many prescription medications can be highly addictive, so letting them fall into the wrong hands is highly unethical. Throwing pills away in the trash may seem fine, but it can be dangerous if children or animals discover them. Don’t be so quick to flush prescriptions down the drain either, as water treatment plants are not equipped to remove pharmaceuticals from wastewater. In order to keep medications out of the wrong hands and the environment, the simplest solution is to bring them into your local pharmacy for safe disposal.

Final Thoughts

It’s true that your pharmacist can’t do what your physician can. However, many places are expanding the role that pharmacists play in the health of their patients. Some states even allow pharmacists to make prescriptions for birth control or smoking cessation products.

Often, pharmacists may need to acquire additional certification to perform these responsibilities. So next time you need to pick up a prescription, don’t hesitate to ask your pharmacist for advice. There is a good chance that you’ll receive sufficient guidance more quickly and for less money than you would from the doctor’s office.

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