Lots of articles in the pharmacist news lately concern expanding the role of pharmacists in the US. The October 18 Pharmacy Times states that, “In an ideal team care setting, doctoral trained pharmacists ‘would not count pills’ but would counsel patients about complex polypharmacy regimens and spearhead interventions to eliminate medication errors, with pharmacy technicians and automated devices handling medication dispensing in retail pharmacies.” The article goes on to say that this model has been evolving within the hospital setting but not in community pharmacies because, “the current reimbursement system pays for drug dispensing—and not for medication therapy management.”
My question as a layperson is why not? Why not cover medication therapy management? The seemingly endless stream of TV commercials for new prescription drugs has undoubtedly led patients to ask their doctors to prescribe these drugs. After all, in the world of the pharmaceutical ad, all problems are alleviated through the popping of a pill. We hear a long list of side effects, some potentially devastating, over soft music while couples picnic, hike or soak in dual bathtubs at the seashore. Does this fulfill the requirement of patient education?
I was shocked when, as a student in nursing school, I learned that most physicians have a rudimentary education in pharmacology and that many learn about the drugs they prescribe from pharmaceutical salesmen. At a time when addiction to and death from prescription drugs is rampant and pharmaceutical drug manufacturers are pouring millions into advertising, it seems patient education is sorely needed. As a hospital inpatient I would feel much reassured to know that my drug regimen was being evaluated by not only by my physicians and nurses, but also by a pharmacist. As a retail pharmacy customer the more my pharmacist and I know about the drugs I take, the better – and the safer.
The question for a pharmacy professional might very well be, “Is this a role I want to take on?” On the behalf of those of us who have been seriously ill or injured: I certainly hope so.