Questions at the Pharmacy: Why Do They Ask Me That?

contributing columnistAugust 17, 2014 

You have just enough time to run by the pharmacy and pick up your prescription on the way to work. When the clerk at the counter asks if you have any questions about your prescription for the pharmacist, you automatically respond "no."

Do you ever wonder why they ask you that every time you pick up a prescription? And why you have to sign something when you say no?

State statutes and regulations require that an offer to counsel be extended to the patient or patient's representative on matters which the pharmacist believes will optimize drug therapy with each patient or caregiver. This is to be done for both original prescriptions or refills as professional discretion dictates. Your signature formally acknowledges that you have declined counsel.

The goal is to assure that the patient understands the proper use of the medication. It also serves as an additional measure of safety.

For example, if the pharmacist were to say, "This medication should treat your infection," but you went to see the prescriber for treatment of back spasms, this communication exchange has served as an effective double check to prevent medication misadventures.

When you say "yes" to a conversation with the pharmacist, you are likely to receive some or all of the following information:

 The name and description of the drug

 The dosage form, dose, route of administration, and duration of therapy

 Special directions and precautions

 Common and clinically significant adverse side effects, interactions, or contraindications that may be encountered, including how to avoid them and what to do should they occur

 Techniques for self-monitoring of drug therapy

 Proper storage

 Refill information

 What to do if you miss a dose

 Comments relevant to the individual's therapy

 Any other information peculiar to the specific patient or drug

While this offer to counsel applies to prescription medications, keep in mind that the pharmacist is a tremendous resource when you have questions about non-prescription medications and medical devices as well.

You don't need an appointment to see your pharmacist and you know exactly where pharmacists can be found — in the prescription department at the pharmacy, standing ready to answer your questions.

The American Pharmacists Association describes the mission of pharmacy practice as "serving society as the professional responsible for the appropriate use of medications, devices, and services to achieve optimal therapeutic outcomes."

So the next time you are asked whether you have any questions for the pharmacist, make time to say "yes." This is your chance to receive information from the professional committed to helping patients achieve maximum benefit from the use of pharmaceuticals.

Dr. Joseph L. Fink is a Professor of Pharmacy Law and Policy at the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy.

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