It’s 8 PM on a Friday night and you just spiked a fever after receiving a flu vaccination earlier that afternoon. You feel a little weak, but don’t have any other symptoms. Do you go to the emergency room? Call your doctor after hours? Or maybe you can call the local pharmacy that’s still open and ask the pharmacist?
One of the most useful tools in your personal health care armory is available right within your community, through a pharmacist! By just calling the pharmacy, you could find out that mild symptoms following flu vaccination (symptoms that can occur in 1-5% of patients, starting 6 to 12 hours after administration and persisting for 1 to 2 days) will not require further medical treatment. This would save you time, money, and avoid any unneccessary visits to the emergency room (estimates suggest that half a million visits per year are both avoidable and non-urgent). The pharmacist will likely advise you to use Tylenol (acetaminophen) for the fever, and to rest.
What should you know about your pharmacist?
Today, all pharmacists obtain a postgraduate doctorate PharmD (Doctor of Pharmacy) and require national licensure, education, and training which readies us to manage all aspects of pharmaceutical care. This includes pharmacists that serve in institutes, long-term care, public health, and within the community, and enables us to effectively be the cornerstone of your drug-related care.
We spend our time reviewing prescription orders, medication profiles, and monitoring outcomes to ensure beneficial health results for patients. Pharmacists are also able to provide education to both patients and other healthcare professionals in regard to drug therapy, and it is now commonplace for pharmacists to be part of medical teams assessing patients in institutions (hospitals), or providing services such as medication therapy management within the community (more on that in a future post).
Pharmacist services have also expanded to included vaccination administration (such as the flu vaccine, pneumonia vaccine and the shingles vaccine), medication adherence and safety evaluations (whether patients are taking their medications as prescribed), health outcomes research, and health testing facilities in pharmacies & clinics. These supplement traditional pharmacy services, including dispensing and compounding. The goal of the pharmacist is to provide medication access and ensure drug therapy is both clinically appropriate and safe, while providing other services including accessible and convenient clinical advice and education.
Why should you know your pharmacist?
By creating a relationship with your pharmacist you will not only have access to all of these services, you will also be able to discuss all points of managing your care with your pharmacist, better understand your own drug regimen, know when to get health tested, and get health advice confidently from a reliable source. Your pharmacist can also provide you with great cost saving tips, including recommendations for cheaper and equally effective alternatives, suggesting coupons or discount programs (GoodRx is a great option!), discussing possible adverse events, drug utility tips, and much more!
An example: A newly diagnosed patient with high blood pressure presented a prescription for Diovan (valsartan) 80mg from their doctor. This medication costs around $120 for a one-month supply. Diovan is a first line therapy based on clinical guidelines, but it is generally used only if other options were not tolerated due to adverse events. Since the patient had never tried any other medications, we were able to switch them to a clinically equivalent drug that was cheaper, and saved them a considerable amount of money per month. This is important as the patient is now able to decrease their own risk of cardiovascular disease by controlling their blood pressure, and is also much more likely to continue taking their medication. I was also able to educate the patient on specific dietary controls that were needed, the importance of taking the medication daily, the benefit of controlling their blood pressure, the role of the drug therapy and discussing possible adverse events related to therapy.
As the GoodRx Pharmacist, I hope to be able to provide similar education and advice related to various conditions and drug care, while incorporating cost-saving tips and tricks to assist you, the patient! My goal is to provide a basis for you to be better informed and more involved in your own healthcare, and ultimately play a part in improving your health and keeping you healthy!
Next week’s post: It’s Allergy Season!
The GoodRx Pharmacist
Diovan does not have a generic equivalent, and can cost $100 – $170 per month out of pocket, depending on the dose. It is considered a Tier 2 or 3 drug by most insurance plans, meaning a high copay as well. In contrast, there are other generic drugs available in the same class like losartan (Cozaar), which could cost under $10 per month, or irbesartan (Avapro) which could cost only $15 – $25 per month. Both would be covered by most insurance plans as Tier 1 generics under your lowest copay.