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Get to Know Your Pharmacist

Couple consulting with pharmacist

An important member of your health care team is as close as your local drugstore. With nearly 9 in 10 Americans living within 5 miles of a community pharmacy,1 your pharmacist may be the health professional you see most often and talk with about your health. Learn the many ways your community pharmacist can help you manage your health.

Pharmacists can work closely with your doctor or nurse to give you expert information and guidance about your health and any health conditions you may have.

What Your Community Pharmacist Can Do for You

Your pharmacist can help support your health by:

  • Talking to you about your medicine. Your pharmacist can explain the small print—what the medicine is for, how best to use it, what side effects you may experience, and what to do if you have side effects.
  • Suggesting ways to help you take your medicine. Your pharmacist can help you learn how to take your medicines as directed as well as solve any problems you might have in doing this. For example, your pharmacist can suggest routines or tools such as a daily pillbox to help you take your medicine at the right time in the right dose. Your pharmacist can also help connect you to prescription discounts and aid programs.
  • Talking to you about medicine safety. Your pharmacist can give you important advice on which over-the-counter medicines, such as pain medicines and dietary supplements, are safe to use in combination with your prescription medicines.
  • Identifying or managing health problems. For example, if you get your blood pressure checked at the drugstore, share your numbers with your pharmacist. Your pharmacist can talk to you about your risk for high blood pressure, help you monitor your blood pressure, and direct you to medical care if needed. Your pharmacist can also consult your doctor to ensure you get the best treatment available.
  • Helping you manage other heath conditions. Pharmacists can provide immunizations, like yearly flu shots, and teach you how to use health equipment such as blood glucose monitors if you have diabetes and inhalers if you have asthma.

How Your Pharmacist Works With Your Health Care Team

Pharmacists have special training to help you manage and improve your health, including working with your health care team. For example, your pharmacist can alert your doctors if they separately prescribe medicines that interact badly, before a problem occurs. Your pharmacist can also consult your doctor and advocate for you if you’re struggling with taking your medicines or have side effects.

How Your Pharmacist Can Help You Take Your Medicine as Directed

Medicine adherence means taking your medicines as directed—the right dose, the right number of doses per day, at the right times of day, and with or without food, drink, or other medicines.

Adherence matters. For instance, not taking prescribed blood pressure medicine as directed can raise your risk of cardiovascular-related death.2 However, only half of Americans treated for high blood pressure take their medicine as directed. Watch this video on blood pressure medicine adherence to learn more.

It can be hard to keep track of your medicines, but taking them correctly is essential to good treatment. Your pharmacist can touch base with you regularly, ask how you’re managing, and give you encouragement. Learn questions to ask your pharmacist the next time you visit the drugstore.

October is American Pharmacists Month, with the theme “Know your pharmacist. Know your medicine.”

Two pharmacists looking at computer monitor Animated GIF of RX logo

The next time you head to the pharmacy, print and take this list of questions with you.

Questions to Ask Your Pharmacist

  • What is this medicine supposed to do?
  • How and when should I take it?
  • What are possible side effects? What should I do if I get them?
  • Should I avoid certain activities, like driving or running?
  • Should I avoid certain foods while taking the medicine, such as milk products or grapefruit?
  • If I’m having problems with this medicine, when should I call my doctor?
  • Can you give me a list of my prescribed medicines?

References

  1. National Association of Chain Drug Stores Foundation. Face-to-Face with Community Pharmacies. NACDS.
  2. Ho PM, Bryson CL, Rumsfeld JS. Medication adherence: its importance in cardiovascular outcomes. Circulation. 2009;119:3028-3035.
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