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Pharmacists, an important part of the Circle-of-Care

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March is Pharmacy Appreciation Month.

“All you do is just slap a label on it”.

Almost anyone who has worked in a pharmacy has heard these words thrown at them during a particularly busy moment in the day. However, especially when it comes to mental health, it can be quite hard to put a “label” on what pharmacists or pharmacy technicians are capable of doing for their patients.

Pharmacists can sometimes come across as the ‘medication police’. I know I’m occasionally guilty of this.

“Maybe we should start at a lower dose.”

“Did you consider trying this instead?”

“Did you mean to put this order in?”

We wear many hats. We are fierce patient advocates, stewards of safety, knowledge translators and so much more. We also love to learn! Whether from new research or, even from a more accurate source, our patients.

When it comes to medications and mental health, there is a careful balance we need to achieve in benefit vs long-term risk. When it comes to other medical conditions, we have a good understanding of effect. Let’s take diabetes medication. We have a pretty good idea of how much your blood sugar will decrease if we give you 5 units of insulin. That is not the same with mental health. We have to not only rely on the known impact a medication may have but also keep in mind experience and large-scale data-driven papers outlining what treatment should work for a patient.

It may surprise you to learn that new treatments in mental health meds are few and far between even with today’s competitive pharmaceutical industry. It may further surprise you to find out that pharmacists are not just about drugs. Today, we’re turning to more natural products.  Unfortunately, many garnered criticisms from the medical field, mainly because of misuse and insufficient research and application.

The Holy-Grail in the pharmacy is finding that balance that reduces the need for putting our minds and bodies through so many medication trials. We do this through pharmacogenomics. This is how we study the impact medications have on your genes.

So, I ask you to consider the pharmacist and pharmacy technician as part of your circle of care. We’re constantly approaching and jumping over hurdles in our run to gain insight into our patients, their reaction to meds and re-imagining accessibility. While we may hear “slap a label on it”, we try to focus more on being that beacon of information for our teams, for the community at large and, of course, strongly advocating for our patients 

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