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The pharmacist as an ally

First, we would like to describe the pharmacist’s role because, as health care professionals with a high level of expertise in all aspects of medication use, they can serve as valuable resources. Although few pharmacists specialize in psychiatry, all are trained to answer the majority of questions patients or their families may have regarding psychiatric medication.

Pharmacists primarily work in hospitals or neighbourhood pharmacies. In addition to dispensing medication, pharmacists work with physicians and other health care professionals to ensure that it is used appropriately. They may issue pharmaceutical opinions and must always review a patient’s medication record before providing medication.

Whether working in a hospital or community setting, as part of their profession, pharmacists may make suggestions regarding choice of medication, dosage, drug combinations previously tried, management of adverse effects and pharmacological interactions with prescribed or over-the-counter drugs. They also participate in the training of other care providers. They are required by pharmacy law to provide usage advice for each new prescription. They must also determine whether or not the prescription is safe for the patient by taking into account the information contained in their record. They ensure that new prescriptions are compatible with the patient’s other prescribed medications and that the dosage and medication are appropriate for the patient based on their age, weight and pre-existing conditions, including renal insufficiency, known allergies, etc.

In Quebec, pharmacists may be paid for providing pharmaceutical opinions. They can even refuse to fill a prescription if they deem the prescribed therapy inappropriate. Most often, when problems arise, the pharmacist will contact the physician so together they can determine the safest and most effective therapeutic strategy for the patient. All of these responsibilities may help explain the wait times patients encounter at local pharmacy counters. Of course, pharmacies can also be very busy, so it may be appropriate to choose a more convenient time if you want to have an in-depth discussion on a particular topic.

Feel free to ask pharmacists any questions you may have related to medication, either by phone or by visiting the pharmacy. Pharmacies are now equipped with consultation areas that allow pharmacists to forge trusted relationships with patients in a more confidential setting. Using one pharmacy for all prescriptions provides patients with assurance that their medication record is being accurately and adequately evaluated. In psychiatry, as in other disciplines, medications can interact with one another or with over-the-counter medications and expose the patient to increased risk of adverse effects.

Patients often see specialists, such as psychiatrists, geriatricians and neurologists, in addition to a general practitioner. In this case, the community pharmacy becomes an even more valuable tool because it provides a centralized, easily accessible and continually updated record of a patient’s medication information. Therefore, it is to the patient’s advantage to always see the same pharmacist and forge a therapeutic partnership with this important health care professional.

Source : Marie-France Demers, pharmacist

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