NEW YORK -- Only a third of consumers said they know their pharmacist's name, according to a survey released by the Washington-based American Pharmacists Association to kick off American Pharmacists Month here.
The survey, conducted for the association by Wilson Health Information, New Hope, Pa., found a correlation between the strength of a consumer's relationship with their pharmacist and being properly informed about medications. That data led to the theme for the first American Pharmacists Month, "Know Your Medicine, Know Your Pharmacist." The promotional campaign began Oct. 1.
Consumers who know their pharmacist are more likely to know their medications and use them properly: This is the message APhA wants to convey.
The survey found that many consumers don't read medication labels, don't tell their pharmacists the medications they are taking, don't know the ingredients in their medications, don't check medication expiration dates, don't understand how their medication should make them feel, and don't ask their pharmacists questions about their medications.
"These missed opportunities increase risk and decrease medication benefits and are why we've formed this partnership and established this as 'Know Your Medicine, Know Your Pharmacist' month," stated John Gans, executive vice president and chief executive officer, APhA.
Ineffective use of prescription and over-the-counter medications not only causes harm, but costs consumers and the health care system money, Gans pointed out.
Knowing the name of their pharmacist increased consumers' likelihood of using medications properly and discussing medications with their pharmacist, the survey revealed.
Among consumers who knew their pharmacist's name, 77% knew the main ingredient in their OTC medications and 69% knew the main ingredient in their prescription medicines. For patients who did not know the name of their pharmacist, only 66% and 55% knew the composition of their OTC and prescription medications, respectively.
Seventy-five percent of consumers who knew their pharmacist's name asked that pharmacist questions when considering purchasing medicines for the first time. Only 39% of consumers who didn't know their pharmacist said they would do that.
"Consumers need an ally, a coach to help negotiate their medications," Gans emphasized. The United States is in a negative spiral, he added, where the high cost of medications is at the forefront of conversations, but not the high cost associated with using them ineffectually.
As part of American Pharmacists Month, APhA is urging retail pharmacists to reach out to patients through in-store programs, for instance, offering tours of the OTC aisle, conducting "brown bag" medication checks where consumers bring their medications in for discussion, health screenings and immunizations.
Karen Reed, APhA's national spokeswoman and a staff pharmacist with Kmart in West Virginia, said her pharmacy tries to prioritize patients by offering one-on-one counseling for diabetics, ensuring continuity of care by communicating among the four staff pharmacists about patients, providing asthma education, flavoring prescriptions and OTC medication for children, and making time to speak to patients.
"It's like ants to sugar when the pharmacist goes out on the floor," she said.
In honor of American Pharmacists Month, Rite Aid is asking its customers to vote for their favorite pharmacist. As an added incentive, consumers who vote will be entered into a drawing to win a home gym system, complete with visits from a personal trainer or one of 100 $25 Rite Aid gift cards. The pharmacists who are chosen will also be rewarded.
Pharmacists will be provided with informational materials to distribute to customers in stores and that can be placed in the OTC aisle as well, including one brochure called "T.A.L.K." encouraging consumers to speak with their pharmacist.