Putting the ‘special’ into pharmacy care

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 19, 2012

(BPT) – Americans have come to expect specialized care from their physicians as growing numbers depend on the expertise of cardiologists, oncologists and endocrinologists. This evolution has also become just as important when it comes to pharmacists and the specific care they can give patients.

Pharmacists can specialize in chronic health conditions such as asthma, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. These specialist pharmacists will play an increasingly important role as health care and patient expectations continue to change. October marks American Pharmacists Month and is a reminder of the value specialist pharmacists can bring to patients.

“Specialist pharmacists are the real experts when it comes to the medications used to treat chronic diseases, yet people’s first inclination is to call their doctor when they have a question or concern about a drug,” says Paul Reyes, host of the Ask the Pharmacist radio series and a registered pharmacist for Express Scripts. “There is no clinician who is better trained in prescription medications or spends as much time addressing patients’ questions and concerns about their drug therapies than a specialist pharmacist.”

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Because of their thorough knowledge of the medications used to treat specific conditions and their access to a patient’s pharmacy records, specialist pharmacists can identify when patients have been prescribed drugs that could cause potentially harmful interactions if used together or when patients are not taking their medications regularly.

“A specialist pharmacist at Express Scripts realized that three different doctors had prescribed different types of the same drug to a cancer patient,” says Reyes. “While the medication was necessary for this patient, in high doses it could be deadly. The pharmacist quickly alerted the patient and the doctors who had prescribed the drugs so that two of three prescriptions could be cancelled. This is a great example of how specialist pharmacists can make a real difference in patient care.”

Whenever you’re prescribed a medication for a chronic condition, Reyes suggests these tips for making the most of a specialist pharmacist’s expertise.

* Ask the specialist pharmacist: See if your health plan or pharmacy has a specialist pharmacist that you can speak to if you have any questions about your medication, such as when and how it should be taken, if there are any potential side effects and whether it interacts with any other medications you are using.

* Is there a generic for that?: Specialist pharmacists are also well versed in the specifics of your prescription drug plan and can advise you on how to save money on your medications. One sure way is to use a generic whenever possible. Generics can cost 30 to 80 percent less than brand medications and more than half of the drugs on the market today have a generic option available. So, the next time you receive a prescription from your doctor or are having a prescription filled, ask “Is there a generic for that?”

* Just a phone call away: Check your prescription drug benefit. Express Scripts has specialist pharmacists available 24/7 to talk to you about your medications whether you get them through home delivery or a community pharmacy.

So remember, use your pharmacist as a resource and make the most of your conversation. For more information, go to www.Express-Scripts.com.