Pharmacists: a wealth of health information

Published in Medicinewise Living

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All of us need some medical advice every now and then, but is it always necessary to see a doctor? Pharmacists can be a wealth of health information, particularly when it comes to medicines and treating minor ailments.

Your local pharmacist is often the most accessible health professional, yet many people don’t make proper use of them.

What do pharmacists offer?

All pharmacists are given extensive training, starting with a pharmacy degree.

They work under the supervision of an experienced pharmacist before completing final examinations.

Pharmacy training covers all aspects of medicines including chemistry, how medicines work, side effects, interactions with other medicines, and their role in treating disease.

Pharmacists are experts in medicines

You can ask your pharmacist any questions you may have about your prescription, non-prescription (over-the-counter) and complementary medicines, including:

  • how your medicine works
  • possible side effects
  • when and how to take your medicine
  • what to expect when taking it.

Pharmacists are also very knowledgeable about the ways medicines interact with each other. You can ask them if any of your medicines may interact with each other, and what to look for if they do.

They can advise of any special instructions, such as what activities to avoid while using the medicine, whether it should be taken with or without food, and how it should be stored.

Your pharmacist can also give you the consumer medicine information (CMI) for your prescription and pharmacist-only medicines, so you have all the information on hand when needed.

Pharmacists can help you manage your medicines

Talk to your pharmacist if you have any problems using your medicines, such as difficulties with dosing instructions or reading the label, getting the medicine out of the container, or using your asthma puffer. They may be able to solve the problem. For example, they may be able to print out instructions on a label with larger type, or put the medicine in a container that makes it easier for you to open or to remember how to take it.

If necessary, they can even contact your doctor to discuss the problem and find a solution.

Over-the-counter advice

Pharmacists could also be your first port of call with minor ailments. They can help you choose a treatment and advise you how to use it.

They will also advise you to see a doctor if your symptoms suggest something more serious and can tell you if your medicines may be causing you side effects.

They are also a wealth of knowledge about over-the-counter medicines including vitamins, and can even provide advice on how to deal with minor injuries, scrapes and burns.

Home Medicines Review

Some pharmacists have done additional training that allows them to conduct Home Medicines Reviews in collaboration with a doctor. A Home Medicines Review is a check of all your medicines (or those of someone in your care) to make sure you are getting maximum benefit and minimising problems.

Your pharmacist may also be able to carry out a medicines review in the pharmacy through the MedsCheck and Diabetes MedsCheck programs.

NPS Medicines Line

For information about specific medicines, call NPS Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) from anywhere in Australia, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm AEST (excluding NSW public holidays).

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