WASHINGTON, Oct. 1 — Pharmacists are useful for dispensing lifesaving information and prescription drugs, but far more people know their hair dressers and auto mechanics, according to a new national consumer survey released today by the American Pharmacists Association (APhA).
Only 20 percent of consumers said they are on a first name basis with their pharmacist as compared to 60 percent for hair dressers, 50 percent for doctors and 37 percent for auto mechanics.
“Most consumers do not make enough use of their pharmacist’s experience, education and knowledge of medications,” commented Karen Reed, BPharm, American Pharmacists Month National Spokesperson. “There’s a clear connection between the consumer, their relationship with the pharmacist and their knowledge of how to use medications. Without the right knowledge, medications can be ineffective — and downright risky.”
The survey also shows consumer/pharmacist communication is improving. Consumers are likely to ask pharmacists questions when purchasing prescriptions and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines for the first time. The survey finds 65 percent were likely to ask questions about prescription medicines, while 44 percent of consumers were likely to ask about OTC products. Less than half, however, are tapping their pharmacist’s expertise beyond medications as only 43 percent have asked a pharmacist a question in the past year about health concerns.
The pharmacist resource is available and understandable. Consumers who ask questions believe that pharmacists have the time to answer their questions (99 percent). Two-thirds of consumers (68 percent) felt that pharmacist consultations were “not at all difficult” to comprehend. So it is clear that pharmacists can assist consumers in getting the full value of their medicines. But what should consumers ask their pharmacists?
According to the survey, the most frequently asked questions are:
1. Will this medicine interfere with other medicines I am taking? (59 percent)
2. Is there a generic version of the medicine my doctor has prescribed? (47 percent)
3. Should I expect any side effects? (43 percent)
4. What is the medicine supposed to do? (39 percent)
These consumer questions are right on the mark. In addition, APhA suggests that consumers ask:
— What is the name of the medicine?
— When and how do I take it?
— How long should I take it?
— Does this medicine contain anything that can cause an allergic reaction?
— Should I avoid alcohol, and any other medicine, food and/or activities?
— What if I forget to take my medicine?
— Is it safe to become pregnant or breastfeed while taking this medicine?
— How should I store my medicine?
The bottom line is — it is important to your health to get to know your pharmacist and ask questions about your medications.
“Americans spend billions each year on prescription and over- the-counter medications,” says Reed. “However, many of these dollars are wasted if the medications are used incorrectly. The most expensive medications are those that consumers don’t use properly. Misuse can render the medication ineffective, or worse, actually cause harm.”