A good day for registered pharmacist Michelle Kasperowitz, 37, is when she's
peppered with questions. They can range from which blood pressure monitor to
buy to whether a rash is poison ivy. And, because she works in a supermarket,
she gets lots of food-related inquiries as well. "One man came up to me
recently, waving a bag of broccoli," says Kasperowitz, who works at the
ShopRite Pharmacy in Woodbridge, N.J. "He's on a blood thinner, and he
wanted to know if he could eat it."
Kasperowitz's job is to fill prescriptions. But she also offers advice and
dispenses information about medication side effects, disease prevention,
nutrition, tobacco cessation, diabetes management, and more. Kasperowitz is
happy to assist and has done so since high school, when she worked in her
neighborhood pharmacy. "I love it when people ask me questions. It motivates me
to learn more, although I do have to say that I'm rarely stumped," Kasperowitz
Medicine is rigorously tested for safety and effectiveness before becoming available to the consumer. In the U.S., the FDA makes sure this happens. Once on the market, the FDA, along with the makers of the drug, continue to monitor the medicine for any unforeseen problems. Should an issue develop, or the safety of a medication come into question, a recall may be initiated.
Pharmacists learn how to engage with patients as part of their six to eight
years in pharmacy school training. Students take such courses as medicinal
chemistry, pathophysiology, and pharmacotherapy, and must pass both national
and state licensing exams, says Jennifer Cerulli, PharmD, associate professor
at the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in New York. They also
practice communication skills with other students and community pharmacists,
who volunteer their time to pose as patients, and they spend more than 1,700
hours of their training interacting with patients in doctor's offices and
hospitals. Here are just some of the things your pharmacist can help you
See the forest, not just the trees. Your pharmacist can review your
entire medication record for potential interactions, see if you're taking drugs
with duplicate effects, and check on prescription refills.
Learn what to take when. Is your asthma medication taken during an
attack or all the time? Can you sip wine if you're on an antibiotic? When
should you take your new birth control pill? Your pharmacist has the scoop.
Ease side effects. Is the niacin you are taking causing a burning
sensation? Is your blood pressure drug causing impotence? Or is your
antidepressant robbing you of sexual desire? A schedule change could do the
trick, or your pharmacist might offer options you can discuss with your
Pocket savings. Medication bills skyrocketing? Talk to your
pharmacist. A generic antiviral medication that costs $9 might take the place
of a new-to-the-market prescription brand priced at $65.
Spill it. Taking ginseng for focus? St. John's Wort for depression?
Black cohosh for hot flashes? These and other kinds of supplements could
potentially interact with your new prescription. Confess all to your
pharmacist, who will know whether you might encounter problems and can advise
Jennifer Cerulli, Pharm.D, associate professor, pharmacy practice, Albany
College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, New York.
Michelle Kasperowitz, R.Ph., community pharmacist, Montclair, NJ.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration: "Stop – Learn – Go – "Talking to your
pharmacist to learn to use drugs safely."
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Handbook: "Pharmacists: Nature of the
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Handbook: "Pharmacists: Training,
Qualification and Advancement."