What can and can’t your pharmacist do for you? When do you need to see a doctor and when will a trip to the local pharmacy do the trick?
What a pharmacist can do for you
A pharmacist can:
- Perform emergency first aid. In most states, a pharmacy must have on site at all times a pharmacist qualified in first aid and mental health first aid.
- Dispense medications:
o Dispense medications with a prescription from a doctor.
o Dispense repeats of prescription medications with a repeat authorisation from a doctor or the previous pharmacy where you got the script filled.
- Administer medications:
o Give flu shots – in Queensland, NSW, SA, WA and NT. (Not available in Victoria or ACT.)
- Some people are even eligible to get it for free (at the GP only).
- Costs as little as $9.99 from Chemist Warehouse.
- This is a new development in Australia, with the Northern Territory the first to pass legislation allowing it in 2014.
- Perform screening tests and other tests:
o Test your blood sugar (blood glucose).
o Test your blood clotting for INR monitoring.
o Test your blood pressure.
o Test your hearing.
o Test your cholesterol levels.
o Test for Coeliac Disease.
o Test for bowel cancer.
o Test for atrial fibrillation (a leading cause of strokes).
o Test your weight.
o Teach you how to use your at-home medical devices such as asthma inhalers, diabetes blood test kits, and air humidifiers.
o Teach you exercises to do at home to manage your pain, incontinence, or other health issues.
- Advice regarding medication and lifestyle needs:
o Explain your medications to you: what the medication you have been prescribed means, how it works, how to take it, how long it will take to feel different, possible side effects, why you should finish the course of medication, alternative brands and non-prescription medication alternatives.
o Perform a medicine review or at-home medicine review (HMR) to discuss your medication routine and any possible changes.
o Give advice on all pregnancy- and baby-related issues.
o Give advice on managing menopause.
o Give advice on everything from pain management to oral dental hygiene, avoiding STDs to eye care. 70% of Australians trust their pharmacist’s medical advice.
o Give advice on travelling: how to transport your medications, and what vaccinations or anti-malarial medicines you will need when travelling overseas.
- Dispose of expired medications safely for you. Did you know that you shouldn’t just put expired medications in the bin or flush them down the drain?
- Provide a medical certificate for your school or workplace (certain pharmacies only, including Friendlies Pharmacy).
What a pharmacist cannot do
- A pharmacist cannot read your mind.
o There’s not some big computer database that tracks your drugs and flags interactions for pharmacists everywhere. So go to one pharmacy loyally if you can. If you start using a new pharmacy, make sure we know what you’re taking.
- A pharmacist cannot “skip the boring explanations” unless they know that you have taken the medication before.
- A pharmacist cannot make your doctor pick up the phone and talk to them.
o You’ve seen doctors’ handwriting, and there are often things on a script that need checking or confirming. Even confirming whether the patient can receive a different strength of a tablet needs a doctor’s “okay”. But if the pharmacist can’t get them on the phone, they cannot legally dispense the medication to you. It’s frustrating, but it would be breaking the law for them to go ahead without the doctor’s green light.
- A pharmacist cannot change your health insurance company’s mind.
o Some health insurance companies are picky about which medications they will and won’t cover, and it frustrates your pharmacist as much as you.
And here’s the big one…
- A pharmacist in Australia cannot prescribe medications.
o Why not, you might be asking? Surveys have found that nearly three quarters of Australians – 72%, in fact – believe pharmacists should have the authority to issue prescriptions for common ailments or to renew prescriptions.
o Pharmacists study as long as doctors do, 6 to 8 years including a PhD, before they are qualified to dispense medications.
o In the UK, pharmacists are allowed to prescribe and dispense medications, and studies show nearly 13% of scripts are written by pharmacists, not GPs, with an error rate of less than 0.5%.
o Britain has even gone so far as to allow supermarkets to employ pharmacists qualified to prescribe and dispense on the premises, cutting the price of medications by 10 to 30%.
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