I recently discovered that pharmacists can do way more than count pills and warn me not to operate machinery. This newfound knowledge came as a result of two surprisingly positive encounters with pharmacists in the last couple of weeks. (Not that my prior encounters with pharmacists were negative; for the most part they were neutral.)
Positive Pharmacist Encounter #1: A specialist did not respond to several faxed requests to renew a prescription. The pharmacist was able to prescribe a one-month supply of the medication to tide me over until my next appointment with this doctor!
Positive Pharmacist Encounter #2: I was picking up my 6th prescription for migraine prevention pills, and I mentioned to the nice new pharmacist that they didn’t seem to be working: I’ve been taking five pills a day for six months, without any improvement. He suggested I ask the doctor (a neurologist) about a different prevention medication. Yeah, I said, but she’s booked solid until November. Not only that, but I got a letter from my health insurer saying that I’ve hit the limit on the number of Relpax (migraine abortives) they’ll pay for. (I take five migraine prevention pills a day, which don’t work, and I take one $17 Relpax, which does work, whenever I get a migraine, which is about 20 times a month.)
To my surprise, the nice new pharmacist said he’d see what he could do. He said he’d get in touch with the neurologist’s office to let them know the prevention meds weren’t working, and he’d contact my insurer to see if an exception could be made. Less than a week later I received a letter from my insurer, saying they would continue paying for my Relpax!
I was so astonished and happy, I felt like hugging my pharmacist and baking him some cookies!
I didn’t even know pharmacists could intervene in matters like this. I always assumed that doctors have patients and pharmacists have customers…I thought of pharmacists as specialized retailers rather than health care providers. I knew they went to school for a long time and had encyclopedic knowledge about drugs, but I didn’t know they could be of such enormous practical benefit to me. Check out this chart that outlines Pharmacists’ Expanded Scope of Practice Activities by Province. They’ve got some significant powers here in Ontario, and in Alberta they’re practically God-like!
Historically, I think apothecaries had a broader scope of practice than pharmacists. Maybe the pendulum is finally swinging away from increasing specialization and back towards greater diversification of roles. I think it’s terrific for health care consumers, as it will help clear out some of the bottlenecks in the system.