Pharmacists: Important Allies in Health Care

Written by on July 8th, 2014 –

pharmacyLike it or not, most, if not all of us with MS or NMO are on daily medication. Understanding how to use that medication properly to get the optimum benefit from it and avoid the risks of drug interactions is important. That’s where your pharmacist can help.

Recently, I switched pharmacies from one I had been using for 23 years to one closer to home. (I stayed with the same company, just chose a different location.) It took me awhile to make this decision because I had a history with my former pharmacy-the staff all knew me by name and the pharmacist understood my extensive drug allergies. I had always received good service from them.

The reason for the change was that the store was located right in the middle of a very large and drawn out construction project (the extension of our sky train line) and getting in and out of the area was becoming more and more difficult. The other issue was that the pharmacy staff were having their hours cut in some misguided attempted by the powers-that-be to save money, which meant I’d often spend upwards of a half an hour standing in line waiting to pick up or drop off my prescriptions. My time is valuable and between the commute and the wait times, it just got to be too onerous. I finally decided to make the switch.

The new pharmacy was very welcoming. I made arrangements to have all my prescriptions transferred over (the staff took care of that-no need for me to do anything but ask.) and made an appointment to have a private consultation to go over my medications. The appointment took about an hour, mainly because I have multiple severe drug allergies, I am on multiple medications and I have a rare disease that my pharmacist wanted to learn more about. She was super helpful and took the time to listen to what I was saying, ask questions to make sure she had a good understanding of my medical situation and took thorough notes for my file. We went over all the medications I am currently taking and she made sure I knew how to take them properly.

Here’s an example of an important piece of information that was shared:

I am allergic to red food dye. Many medications are dyed red or pink and my files says not to give me anything in those colours. I had a medication in the last year that made me really sick the first time I took it. The new Pharmacist asked me if I was allergic to the medication because the previous pharmacist had noted that I was. The name of the drug was not familiar to me as a drug I am allergic to. Then it dawned on me that this was a drug I had an immediate reaction to because of the colour. It’s orange. If you think about primary colours, you mixed red and yellow together to get orange. That sneaky red food dye had found its way into my system and made me sick. It wasn’t the actual drug that was causing a problem, but the dye used to make the pill. The new pharmacist noted NO ORANGE MEDS! on my file. Then we went over all the medications I am on so she would know what colours they are. It’s a silly, seemingly innocent thing, but when you have an allergy, it’s not fun to be exposed to the things that can make you really sick!

Currently, my pharmacy recommends going over my medications one on one with my pharmacist every six months. (This would of course depend on whether or not any changes had been made to my medication regime or if there were changes in my health.)

It can be easy to overlook your pharmacist as an important member of your health care team, but to me, they are one of THE most important people helping to keep me in optimum health. I make sure I check with them before starting any new drug or vitamin supplement to ensure it won’t react badly to anything I am taking or that there are no hidden ingredients that I need to avoid. (Sometimes doctors can make mistakes! I always double check.) They are always happy to answer any questions I might have.

The pharmacy has other helpful services I make use of-I bring any unused or expired medications to them to make sure they are disposed of properly.  When I was being treated for MS before I knew I actually had NMO, I would also return my sharps (syringes from my daily injections) to the pharmacy and pick up a fresh sharps container.

There are many free services available at pharmacies across Canada. If you are interested in learning more, check with your pharmacy and see what they have to offer. If you haven’t been working closely with your pharmacist to optimize your health, now might be a good time to consider the impact they can have on helping you to manage chronic disease-after all, when it comes to fighting MS and NMO, we need all the help we can get!


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