March is Pharmacist Awareness Month

Five great reasons to visit your pharmacist!

VANCOUVER, March 4, 2014 /CNW/ - March is national Pharmacist Awareness Month and a great time to remind British Columbians of the many ways pharmacists can help optimize your health. 

This year's theme, The pharmacist is in, highlights the integral role pharmacists play in BC's health care system. BC pharmacists help improve patient outcomes, increase access to primary care and reduce overall health care costs.

Here are five ways your community pharmacist can help you!

1.       Provide vaccinations to protect you against illnesses
Did you know that pharmacists are now seen as the most accessible group of health care professionals in our province? Their accessibility makes them the best choice to help patients needing a wide variety of vaccinations against illnesses such as flu, measles and whooping cough, and they are able to respond quickly to outbreaks.

In 2009, pharmacists were granted authority to administer injections to patients five years or older, meaning you can now visit an authorized pharmacist for publicly funded vaccines including pneumococcal, influenza, HPV, Td (tetanus diphtheria) and MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), as well as vaccines available for purchase such as shingles or travel vaccines.

In BC, more than 2,850 pharmacists are authorized to administer injections and 85 per cent of all community pharmacies have at least one authorized pharmacist. It is anticipated that pharmacists will have provided more than 350,000 publicly funded vaccinations during the 2013/14 flu season, a significant increase over the almost 200,000 in the previous year.

2.      Help you understand how to use your medications safely and effectively
If you are taking five or more different qualifying medications, you may be eligible for a medication review, a publicly funded service that provides advice from your pharmacist on how to best take your medications and resolve any issues you may be having with them.

The pharmacist meets with you to review your medications and prepare a Best Possible Medication History (BPMH). The purpose is to improve your understanding of your medications, including what medications you're taking, why you're taking them, and how best to take them. You can then share the BPMH with other health care professionals, such as your family physician or specialist.

Studies have shown that the more patients know about their medications, the better they adhere to the intended medication regimen. Increased medication adherence improves health outcomes and helps to reduce health costs by lowering the rate of emergency room visits and hospitalizations. 

3.      Help you prepare for your upcoming vacation
Whether you're heading out for spring break or thinking ahead to your summer vacation, consult with your community pharmacist about your medications. 

Your pharmacist can review your medications to make sure your prescriptions won't expire while you're away, help adjust your dosing schedule to make sure you avoid missing doses when travelling across time zones, or arrange for backup supplies of prescriptions in case you lose your luggage.

Your pharmacist can also talk to you about how to avoid travel sickness and prevent travelers' diarrhea, or provide advice on any over-the-counter medications you may need for your trip.

4.      Renew or adapt some prescriptions
If you have a stable chronic condition such as asthma or diabetes, your pharmacist may be able to renew your medications for up to one year from the date of the original prescription without needing a new prescription. Patients taking birth control pills can have their pharmacist renew their prescriptions for up to two years. Pharmacists can also adapt prescriptions to make sure patients get the right dose or formula, for example, or switch from a pill to a liquid.

BC pharmacists now renew and adapt almost 200,000 prescriptions annually. By not sending a patient back to their doctors for routine renewals, pharmacists are saving time for their patients and money for the health care system.

5.      Return medications that you're no longer using for safe disposal
Your medicine cabinet may contain unused or expired medications that may potentially harm your family or the environment if not disposed of properly. Now you can return prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications and natural health products in oral dosage form to your community pharmacy. This service is made possible through the BC Medications Return Program, which covers the costs associated with the responsible disposal of these products.

Pharmacists are accessible, provide high quality care, and can provide a wide range of services to their patients. Talk to your local community pharmacist about the many services now offered.

The BC Pharmacy Association is the voice for community pharmacy, representing pharmacists and pharmacies throughout British Columbia.

SOURCE British Columbia Pharmacy Association

For further information: or to arrange an interview with a community pharmacist, contact: Gina Vesnaver, Curve Communications, 604-248-4203. gina@curvecommunications.com