Pharmacist Changes May Reduce Drug Injuries

Pharmacists are highly trained professionals. They are proficient in biology, chemistry, public health, and pharmacology. They are trained to dispense prescription drugs, while also advising patients and physicians about drug interactions, dosages, and side effects. Some pharmacists also compound new medicines by mixing ingredients.

But lately, these drug experts have been stuck behind the counter at local pharmacies, dealing with insurance companies or answering the phone to tell a patient whether her medication is ready to be picked up. A total waste of talent.

There may be hope. An article in The New York Times reports that Walgreen pharmacists are once again being allowed to become medical care providers. The company is slowly starting to renovate stores to take pharmacists out from behind the counter.

Pharmacists in the revamped stores are being kept away from the telephone, where dealing with insurance coverage questions and other administrative tasks occupy 25 percent of their time, Walgreen says.

“What we are seeing now is pharmacists should be using their knowledge to help consumers manage their medications appropriately,” said Nimesh Jhaveri, executive director of pharmacy and health care experience at Walgreen. “It’s not about the product but the care we give.”

If this works, it will be a great benefit to customers who buy prescription drugs. Fully 50% of all Americans take at least one prescription drug. Each year, more than 825,000 adverse events from medications are reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and pharmacists are important sources of this type of information. They can also be an important gatekeepers to prevent adverse events in the first place. But, of course, there must be financial incentives to allow pharmacists to regain their rightful role in the medication-dispensing process. According to The New York Times:

Federal Medicare drug laws allow for payment to pharmacists for “medication therapy management,” when patients have multiple chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes and asthma and are taking multiple medications. In recent years, Walgreen and other pharmacy chains have lobbied aggressively for reimbursement and changes to rules that allow pharmacists to do more and to get paid for these additional services.

We’ll take anything that reduces the numbers of drug injuries in this country.

To read the full article in The New York Times, click here:  Out from behind the counter

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