“What is it that you do again…?” 

Blog by Aimee Cooke

My own mother doesn’t know what I do. 

As I am in the midst of my last year of pharmacy school, I would have hoped that my mother might know more by now. The fact that she doesn’t tells me two things. First, I need to talk to my mother more often. Second, if my own mother doesn’t even know what I do– how can I expect my patient on the other side of the counter to understand this job?

First, what we are not. 

We are not pill counters!

A lot of what I do as a pharmacist is invisible. It’s in my head. We have to make sure that what the doctor is prescribing is appropriate for your diagnosis, that it is the correct dose or frequency, and that it is not something you are allergic to. If you are on more then one medication – then we have to start considering how they might interact with each other. Some medications have the ability to change the way other medications work, how they are absorbed, and even how they are released into the body.

For example, if you have pneumonia your doctor will commonly prescribe the antibiotic Levaquin (levofloxacin) to treat your infection. When this antibiotic is taken with medications containing calcium, magnesium, or aluminum (which can be found in antacids, laxatives, multivitamins, etc.) it can interfere with the antibiotic’s ability to be absorbed completely which could prevent the antibiotic from killing all of the bacteria and getting rid of the infection.

We might also be looking at how long you have been on a medication as well. Some medications, depending on why you are taking them, might need to be increased from their starting dose, decreased if you are having side effects, or removed completely as they might no longer be necessary. While looking at your prescriptions, we are looking at all of the pharmaceutical properties, pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, pharmacotherapeutics, and a lot of other “pharma” named studies.

So next time you see your pharmacist, remember that what she is doing while it looks like she’s just “counting pills” may just be saving your life.