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You've seen the doctor and he handed you a scribbled prescription. You went to the pharmacy, pushed it over the counter, waited for it to be filled then paid for it and went home. If you did that you've missed accessing an important partner in your healthcare--the pharmacist.
How can you use the pharmacist to help your doctor help you? First you should use the same pharmacy for all your prescription and non-prescription needs. This will keep a record of all your medications in one place and enable the pharmacist to warn you of possible drug interactions. Choose a pharmacy with a friendly pharmacist--take time to talk to him and avoid going at busy times of day so he has the time to talk to you.
A good pharmacist will show you your pills as he gives them to you. Know the medication you are taking, what it looks like and what it's for. Sometimes manufacturers change a pill's shape or color but you should always ask if it looks different to you in any way. Mistakes happen and it never hurts to doublecheck. Your pharmacist should also give you a list of side effects with each new prescription- take time to read them and call back later if you have any questions.
Just as important as prescriptions is your pharmacists's advice on any over-the-counter medicines you plan to use. Nasal sprays, cough relievers, headache remedies and others should be shown to you before purchase. These all come with warnings that can be confusing. He can check them against the prescription drugs you are taking to see how they might affect you as well as advising you on how well they work for the problem you have.
The same goes for vitamins and especially herbal supplements. Many of these can counteract medications you currently take and your pharmacist can advise you on which ones are safe for you.
A good pharmacist is usually easier to get hold of than your doctor and will be able to answer most medication questions you have. It is worthwhile to cultivate your relationship with your pharmacist and make him a valued part of your healthcare team.