How Should I Choose a Pharmacist?

Jane Harmon

A pharmacist dispenses drugs as required by a physician. In the olden days, a pharmacist would compound the drugs from their ingredients, but now prescription drugs come straight from the drug companies in pill or liquid form ready to be measured out and bottled. So how hard is it to be a pharmacist? It seems like anyone would do, right? Not so fast...

Rarely, pharmacists will refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control.
Rarely, pharmacists will refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control.

The pharmacist you pick to dispense your prescriptions ought to be convenient and have hours that complement your schedule. You should also pick one pharmacist and have all your prescriptions at the same place. This is particularly key if you have a number of different doctors, as happens when we get older and have to see a variety of specialists for our various ailments. There needs to be one central location that knows everything - and I mean everything - you have been prescribed, to monitor for possible drug interactions. If your general practitioner doesn't know what your orthopedic surgeon has prescribed for you, and vice versa, you could be in for a tragic surprise.

Pharmacists directly handle medications prescribed by doctors.
Pharmacists directly handle medications prescribed by doctors.

Because a pharmacist directly handles the medicines that are available by prescription, he or she is required to keep abreast of drug interaction information which is constantly evolving and being revised. You should also tell your pharmacist if you are taking any herbal supplements, since they can also interact with prescription drugs. St. John's Wort, for instance, is a natural type of anti-depressant that should not be taken with prescription anti-depressants such as Wellbutrin.

One final consideration when selecting a pharmacist - recently a number of pharmacists have lobbied for, and in some states obtained, the right to refuse to fill a prescription that conflicts with their religious beliefs. This is known as a 'conscience clause' and is most often employed against prescriptions for emergency contraceptives such as RU 486 and Plan B, which many consider abortifacients. More recently, some pharmacists have refused to fill prescriptions for birth control to unmarried women, or even to married women if their religion prohibits the use of birth control at all.

Some pharmacists have even been known not only not to fill the prescription, but also to refuse to return the prescription slip that would allow the woman to go to another pharmacy. This is illegal, of course - a pharmacist is not allowed to use a 'conscience clause' to interfere with your right to get your prescription filled. Before you take a prescription for birth control of any sort to an unknown pharmacist, phone and make sure that they are willing to fill it. If they are not, take your business elsewhere.

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