Next time you’re in your nearest drugstore, don’t forget to thank the pharmacist who served you. More than dispensing drugs over the counter, a pharmacist plays a key role in the public’s overall health.
“The pharmacist is an integral member of the healthcare team and assumes varied functions ranging from the procurement and supply of medicines to pharmaceutical care services, helping to ensure the best treatment for patients,” says the World Health Organization (WHO). (Read: Traditional Filipino Healthcare Practices: How Effective Are They?)
Leonida M. Ocampo, 2011 president of the Philippine Pharmacists Association, Inc, agrees to this. “We call our pharmacists medical experts,” she said in an interview. “It is the pharmacists’ duty to check the prescription for any potential drug effects and interaction or inappropriate dosing. She should also monitor the effects of the medicine [good and bad] in individual patients, provide medical counseling to patients for various diseases, and provide drug information to guide the public and other health professionals.”
In celebration of National Pharmacist Day, held every January 12 to honor the impact of pharmacists on our health and wellbeing, My Pope Philippines asks Maricris “Mika” Magbanua Maza — registered pharmacist for the past 10 years and resident pharmacist of premier medical clinic Centre Medicale Internationale to give us practical tips on buying and handling medicines.
#1: Make Sure That the Pharmacy Complies With Proper Storage Conditions
“To ensure the quality and efficacy of the medicines you are going to buy, make sure that the pharmacy complies with proper storage conditions,” says Mika. “Always remember that the pharmacy should be clean, dry, and well ventilated, with temperature ranging from 15 to 25 degrees Celsius.”
#2: Bring Your Latest Prescription
“Bring the latest prescription when buying prescription drugs,” Mika says. “Pharmacists are trained to check the prescription from the letterhead down to the doctor’s signature. We check the generic name, brand name, and dosage of the medicine carefully to avoid wrong dispensing that might result in undesirable effects on the patients.”
“Before the pharmacist dispenses the medicine, he will also check on the expiration date and damages in the packaging to make sure he is giving a 100-percent quality product.” (Read: We Asked Med Practitioners: What Motivated You to Become a Doctor?)
#3: Be Mindful of Online Transactions When Buying Medicines
“Since we are still in a pandemic, I know that it is advisable to do online transactions rather than walk-ins. Let’s be extra careful when it comes to non-pharma online suppliers of medicines as they might be carrying counterfeit drugs,” Mika says.
“Buy from authorized sellers only, those who require you to present prescriptions when buying a prescription drug. Another option is to make a reservation by calling or emailing your drugstore of choice beforehand, so you minimize your time inside the store when you have to pick up your medicines.”
#4: Do Not Self-Medicate
“Avoid self-medication,” Mika says. “Ask your physician first before buying even over-the-counter (OTC) drugs because he knows your health history.” (Read: Asymptomatic Patients Carry Same Amount of Virus as Symptomatic Individuals, Study Claims)
“Some OTC drugs might cause adverse reactions, too. Or let the pharmacist communicate with your physician to check on the available drugs you can take, and he will later discuss with you how to properly take it (route of administration and dosing) and store it after it was opened (applicable to syrups and suspensions).”
#5: When Buying Medicines, Always Check the Price
“Check the price of the medicine before purchasing,” Mika says. “At the same time, insist on an official receipt no matter how familiar you are with the store. A receipt offers some degree of accountability from the pharmacy for the goods it sells.”