Minding Our Elders: Thanks to the pharmacist who warned us in time about potential problem with Dad’s new medication

Dear Carol: I recently had an experience that I’d like to share with your readers. My dad has several serious physical and mental conditions so his medical file is complicated. Recently, a new drug to help with breathing problems was released, and his doctor, who is outstanding in all ways, saw no reason for Dad not to try it. We left the clinic in good spirits but had barely gotten Dad home when my phone rang. It was the pharmacy telling me that an information update had just then alerted them that Dad’s newly prescribed drug could seriously interact with one of his other medications. I asked the pharmacist to follow through with the doctor and a different medication was then prescribed. My point is that even the best doctor may not have up-to-the-minute information about a drug, so having a pharmacist double-check our prescriptions is important to our health management. Thanks for allowing me this opportunity to thank the pharmacists in our community. — LC.

Dear LC: I’m happy to have another opportunity to sing the praises of community pharmacists.

Doctors are required to stay on top of an enormous amount of ever-changing information so that they can offer the best advice to their patients. Most of them are also well-informed about new medications that can help their patients, as well as the American Medical Association guidelines for prescribing them. Additionally, most doctors have the electronic capability to screen for reactions and interactions common to each drug.

However, unlike doctors, it’s the pharmacist’s job to focus solely on medications, including breaking updates and how they could impact their individual customers. This makes them our mainline defense when it comes to drugs.

I’ve seen similar situations like the one that you describe in my own family. In one case, a family member was prescribed a drug at a walk-in clinic that contained an ingredient related to one for which he had a potentially serious allergy. Another family member has, like your dad, a complicated medical history, and a physician who was unfamiliar with his complete background had prescribed a potentially harmful medication change. In both instances, the pharmacists caught the errors.

Pharmacists do more than check for safety, though. Our local pharmacists work with insurance companies to push much-needed medications through the system without undue delay. Additionally, I’ve experienced times when they’ve rushed filling a prescription because they knew a customer was in acute pain.

Our pharmacists also used their valuable time tracking down a vital but generic medication that one manufacturer had without warning ceased making so that the prescription could be filled.

For these reasons as well as more general ones, such as recommending over-the-counter medications if a person has a cold or flu, pharmacists need to be considered a vital part of our health care team. We leave them out of the loop at our own risk.

Thank you for stepping forward to give me this opportunity to again emphasize their important contribution to our health.

Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran caregiver and an established columnist. She is also a blogger, and the author of “Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories.” Bradley Bursack hosts a website supporting caregivers and elders at www.mindingourelders.com.