Know your Pharmacist, Love your Pharmacist

by Jeanine Adinaro on December 1, 2010

in General Health

“Has anyone seen the key to the narcotics cabinet?”

My grandfather embodied awesomeness. He always ate the results of my culinary misadventures, regardless of how over-cooked, over-salted or fundamentally ill-conceived, and told me they were tasty. Everywhere he went he helped to brighten people’s days, even if it was just in the mere act of truly listening to their stories of life’s disappointment. And when his oncologist told him he had 6 months to live, he shrugged, gave the universe a big “whatever,” and lived for another 10 years.

About 3 years before the end of that 10 year stint, he started having problems with frequent fainting spells. After hitting the floor, his blood pressure would usually clock in at around 55/35. “Normal” blood pressure for an adult male is somewhere around 120/80.  It’s no wonder he was seeing linoleum.

Now it’s true that some of us are naturally blessed with lower than average blood pressure- thank you for that too grandpa. But at that point his blood pressure was in the territory officially known as “dangerously low.” The puzzling bit was that he had just started having these fainting spells and uncharacteristic blood pressure readings out of the blue.

Luckily our family is wonderfully close to a nurse who had the good sense to wonder if maybe his various medications might be involved. Enter the hero of our story- the pharmacist. He carefully reviewed my grandfather’s medication list and determined that the interaction of two of his prescriptions, one prescribed by his cardiologist and the other prescribed by his gastroenterologist, was the culprit. My grandfather went back to the cardiologist, report the pharmacist’s finding, the doctor changed the medication, and poof, no more fainting spells. Did I forget to mention that my grandfather lived to be 90 and was really quite a vibrant individual right up to the end?

The sad reality of our current medical landscape is that while a doctor might be an expert on the pharmaceuticals used to treat conditions in his specialty, for example a cardiologist should have extensive familiarity on drugs related to heart conditions, he is not necessarily going to know much about drugs used for other conditions, like those used to treat gut problems. But your pharmacist does.

Pharmaceutical studies is an elegant blend of medicine and chemistry that allows a pharmacist to look at the bigger picture of how drugs, herbs, dietary supplements and even food interact in the human body. If you start to have weird symptoms that you didn’t have until a week of taking pill X, the pharmacist is your go-to guy. And I am not talking about 5 minutes at the big-box drive thru window when the tech asks, “Did you have any questions about your medication today?” I am talking about making an appointment to have a comprehensive consultation.

Many independent pharmacies, for example our good friends over at Live Oak Pharmacy, offer a service to have a comprehensive consultation done, even if you don’t get your prescriptions filled at their pharmacy. I think I may also have heard rumors of Medicare and other insurance covering the consultation fee. Though I warn you, you are likely to switch to Live Oak Pharmacy after you discover how delightful Nathan Pope is to visit.

Photo by Genista

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