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Opinions of Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Columnist: Harry KA Okyere

What do Pharmacists do

Whiles surfing the internet a couple of weeks ago, I chanced upon an interesting street quiz video about who a pharmacist is. In the video, I was a bit exasperated that not a single person could tell accurately who a pharmacist was or what they actually do.

My disenchantment reached a crescendo when a young student was deemed to be correct when she described a pharmacist as someone who sells drugs, perhaps this innocent girl had retail or community pharmacies in mind (her answer remains a widespread misconception about who pharmacists are). There seems to be an enormous gap between what pharmacists actually do and what the public perceive them to do.

But what do community pharmacists do beside the ostensible sales of drugs to clients? First of all, we need to acknowledge that Pharmacists work in many different work environments: academia, research, regulatory, drug discovery, drug manufacture and in clinical settings, among others. It would probably require an ocean of space to be able to tell in rich detail what pharmacists do in all those different environments.

Wherever they may be working, however, Pharmacists are responsible for the quality of medicines supplied to patients, ensuring that the supply of medicines is within the law, ensuring that the medicines prescribed to patients are suitable and that patients get the best out of their medicines whiles minimizing the risk of any adverse events. At minimum, the most obvious responsibility of the pharmacist is the art of dispensing or supplying medicines to patients with adequate information on the drugs.

The Pharmacist clarifies the patients understanding of the intended dosage regimen and method of administration and advises the patient of drug related precautions and other healthcare professionals about safe and effective medicines use.

What patients need to understand, however, is that many behind-the-scene activities go on before drugs are dispensed or supplied. Pharmacist and the support staff review prescriptions to make sure the prescriber’s recommendation is appropriate and safe for the patient.

Those with the right to prescribe know far less about drug therapies than pharmacists, and patients need to make full use of that knowledge.

Community based pharmacists are also frequently involved in out-of-clinic management of chronic conditions including routine monitoring of blood pressure, blood sugar and blood cholesterol using rapid diagnostic tests. They also may give upto-to-date clinical advice about the patient’s diet, exercise, or stress management, or about durable medical equipment and home health care supplies.

Within the limits where the laws of the country allow, pharmacists often diagnose and treat disease of common occurrence. In a country where the time and monetary cost of hospital visit is skyrocketing, many people use community pharmacists as their first point of call for many ailments.

They are optimally positioned within the community, are accessible and do not charge for consultation. Gradually, the scope of community pharmacy practice is also expanding to embrace the provision of enhanced reproductive health services and immunization services.

Disappointingly however, despite their immense potential and actual contribution to healthcare in our country, pharmacists in Ghana are faced with an unfortunate, enormous lack of recognition and appreciation of their roles within the healthcare system. Pharmacists are your medicines experts and not sales persons. The next time you walk into a pharmacy, locate your pharmacist and engage him or her on all your medicine and health related needs.

The writer is a leading member of the PharmaResearch Gh group. He is a community-based pharmacist and a researcher with special interest in public health especially in pharmacoepidemiology, complementary and Alternative Therapies and Drug utilization studies.