Health Watch by Steve Mullenix

The North Jefferson News

Drug store selection is not usually something someone puts a lot of thought into.

Often people look at a pharmacy as nothing more than a retail store, but in reality it is much more. Selecting a drug store is as important as selecting a physician or dentist.

Behind that counter is a highly trained professional with a wealth of knowledge in drug therapy and treatment with the ability to alert you to potential fatal or life threatening errors in your drug therapy. There is not any other retail establishment that has an individual as highly trained and knowledgeable as the pharmacist. Selecting a pharmacy is not a decision to be made lightly. Visiting a store with hours until midnight, and the ability of picking up a prescription from a drive through window often misses the important pharmacist-patient interaction.

All pharmacists are obligated ethically and legally to make drug counseling available to each customer. Whether or not you chose to take advantage of this service is up to you. However, with the volume of prescriptions that some pharmacies do, this service is often difficult to provide. One should seek a pharmacy where the pharmacist is accessible and approachable for questions.

With more than 90 percent of the prescriptions being paid for by insurances, in almost all cases, the copays are the same regardless of the pharmacy you go to. However you have a definite benefit in utilizing one pharmacy. This allows one pharmacist to track all your prescriptions for potential drug-drug interactions as well as with over-the-counter medications you may be purchasing.

Taking some over-the-counter medications in combination with prescription drugs can result in life threatening interactions. Often physicians will call a pharmacy if an individual is in a hospital or emergency room and request his/her current drug therapy. If multiple pharmacies are being used, the physician is unable to get a complete picture of an individual’s overall drug therapy.

With gas rising above $3 a gallon everyone is having to tighten the belt a little. We are all looking for the best deal possible. However, sometimes the best deal can end up costing more in the long run. Sometimes these costs are not only in dollars and cents, but can be much more expensive in terms of your overall health as discussed above.

Sometimes pharmacies offer medications at a very competitive or deeply discounted prices. It’s just one of their ways of marketing themselves and making themselves stand out from the competition. It’s not unlike a grocery store selling canned green beans at three cans for a dollar. It’s marketing pure and simple. You may wonder why if one pharmacy can do it, why don’t all pharmacies. Well, just like marketing, it’s also economics. When they are able to sell toys, lawn furniture, clothing, pet supplies, and jewelry while you’re waiting for your prescription, it’s possible for them to make up for any lost profits from these other purchases.

Is there anything wrong with this type of marketing? Not really. One can rest assured that these are the same quality medications that are being dispensed from other drug stores. By no means are these medications sub-standard in any way. It’s just their way of advertising and marketing.

However, there are only selected drugs available for these prices, and they are the generic drugs. While marketing is a business strategy, many view a pharmacy as only a business. There are some pharmacies that provide additional beneficial services over and above the simple retail segment. They offer that personal touch, where they have the same staff and know your name. They may offer unique services such as compounding, injection services, medication management, glucose and cholesterol testing, immunization programs and convenient access to health care professionals.

The patient care provided by your local pharmacy professionals can help you meet your primary goal, good health. So, when you leave your doctor with your prescriptions, take a minute to think about which pharmacy can best meet all your needs.

Steve Mullenix (R.Ph) co-owns The Pharmacy in Mount Olive with his wife, Sherry Mullenix (J.D., R.N.). They can be reached at 631-1201.

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