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Your Pharmacist & You

Who is your community pharmacist?

Your community pharmacist is a health professional with an extensive university education. At least four, and more recently five, years of university are needed for a degree in the professional practice of pharmacy. The pharmacists’ education doesn’t stop after graduation. To help pharmacists stay current with the latest health information, pharmacists continue to study throughout their career. In Nova Scotia, pharmacists are required to take continuing education courses each year just to keep their licence

What is a professional fee?

The total price of your prescription is the sum of a pharmacy’s drug cost plus a professional fee. A professional fee, often referred to as a dispensing fee, covers the many services your pharmacist provides each time you visit. In addition to the services (listed below) this fee must cover operating costs like salaries, computers, rent, heat, electricity and dispensing supplies such as vials, labels, bags, and so on.

What services am I receiving for the fee that I pay?

The professional fee covers many different services – many of which you may not realize your pharmacist is doing before, during and after filling your prescription.

These services include:

  • checking the prescription;
  • detecting any possible drug interactions; like checking for possible reactions between your medicines and other medicines or food;
  • checking for possible side effects;
  • screening for allergies to the prescribed medications;
  • determining whether the drugs prescribed will interfere with any medical condition you may have;
  • preparing your medication and making sure you know the best way to take or use it;
  • making sure an adequate supply of medications is available to help meet your needs;
  • checks for duplication of therapy;
  • answers your questions and/or concerns that may arise about your medication and/or side effects on an ongoing basis

Why may the professional fee differ from one pharmacy to another?

Like other business, prices among pharmacists can differ. Pharmacy is a business and, therefore, is not immune to competition. Pharmacy is a service industry and as such many pharmacies provide additional services other than those listed above. Some pharmacies may provide the following additional services:

  • printed information on the drug you are using when you take the drug for the first time;
  • others provide a call back program to find out how you are getting along on your new drug;
  • many pharmacies provide blood pressure clinics or have blood pressure machines on site for self use;
  • still others provide blood sugar, food and/or cholesterol clinics with minimal charges;
  • and others provide delivery, extended hours and make available to their clients access to the pharmacy’s literature and video libraries.

The list can go on, but what is important is for you to choose the level of service you need and to understand that these additional services, if provided, are reflected in the pharmacy’s professional fee.

Why is it important to stay with one pharmacy?

It is a good idea to have all your prescriptions filled at one pharmacy. You may not know this, but your pharmacist keeps a complete patient medication profile on you at the pharmacy where you have your prescriptions filled. These profiles record all medications you are taking (or have taken), health problems, and allergies that you have told your pharmacist about. It is also a good idea to tell your pharmacist about all over-the-counter medications you take so they can be included in your medication profile.

By going to one pharmacy, your pharmacist will be able to continuously update your patient profile – making sure all the information is accurate. This will also help avoid problems that sometimes occur when medications are mixed. And remember – your patient profile is confidential information.