Consumers Must Be Properly Informed In Order to Make Healthy Choices

Consumers Should Choose a Pharmacist with Careful Consideration


Saskatoon, Saskatchewan–”Millions of Canadians are suffering unnecessary side effects, hospitalizations, nursing home admissions and even death because they do not know how to manage their drug therapies at home,” says Dorothy L. Smith, Pharm.D., President of Consumer Health Information Corporation, McLean, Virginia.

The Jack L. Summers Memorial Public Lecture emphasized the critical role that consumers have in their own drug therapy. “As soon as a doctor prescribes a medication, the success of therapy lies in the hands of the consumer,” says Smith, an internationally recognized speaker and best-selling author of Understanding Canadian Prescription Drugs.

In her presentation, entitled Prescription Medications: Making Wise Decisions, Dr. Smith offered practical tips for managing medications and selecting a good pharmacist. “It is important to select a pharmacist who will give you all the patient information you need to take medications correctly,” says Smith.

According to Smith, when selecting a pharmacist, consumers should keep the following in mind:

  • Choose a pharmacist whom you trust and with whom you will feel comfortable discussing personal problems.
  • Ask questions and request that written instructions be given to you so you can review your doctor’s and pharmacist’s instructions regarding proper use of medications.
  • Never assume that a pharmacist is too busy to answer your questions.
  • Discuss how to take your medicine correctly and review any potential side effects that may occur. Make sure your pharmacist is aware of all other medications (prescription/nonprescription) that you are currently taking. This will help your pharmacist identify potentially adverse drug interactions.
  • Choose a pharmacist who counsels you at each visit and monitors your response to all prescribed medications. You must provide personal feedback regarding any side effects, problems, or noncompliance issues that may be affecting treatment outcome.
  • If you do not feel comfortable discussing your medicine or condition in front of other people, do not hesitate to ask if a private room is available to discuss your personal situation in more detail.
  • Try to find a pharmacy that provides after-hours and emergency coverage.
  • When purchasing home test kits, ask your pharmacist to explain how to properly use the equipment and how to interpret test results.
  • Speak with your pharmacist about any special programs that may be available through your pharmacy including free pamphlets and newsletters on diseases and other health care issues; video viewing, seminars, etc. Make use of these special services in order to make better decisions regarding your own drug therapy.

Throughout the lecture, Dr. Smith urged consumers to take control of their health care. According to Smith, consumers need to be become “more involved” in making sure they are receiving necessary information to make educated decisions about their treatment therapy.

Taxpayers are paying more for the hidden costs of medication noncompliance than they are for the actual medicine. “It does not make sense to continue paying for hospitalizations, emergency room and doctor visits, or nursing home admissions that could have been prevented,” says Smith. Patients can learn to help themselves by actively seeking advice, asking more questions, providing necessary feedback regarding potential problems, and allowing their pharmacist to teach them all that they need to know about managing their medications between visits to the doctor.

The second of this two-part lecture series was a keynote address at the Saskatchewan Pharmacists Association convention where Dr. Smith urged pharmacists to provide more counseling services to their patients.

Sponsored by the University of Saskatchewan, College of Pharmacy and Nutrition, the first Jack L. Summers Memorial Lectureship in Pharmacy was established in 1994 by former students, pharmacists and friends, to honor the memory of Professor Emeritus Jack Leslie Summers. The Jack L. Summers Memorial Lectureship brings to Saskatchewan outstanding lecturers to speak to pharmacy practitioners, educators, students and the public. Dr. Smith says she considers Professor Summers to be her role model and regards the invitation to present the first memorial lecture as one of the greatest honors of her career.