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October 24, 2009

Celebrate pharmacists in October - A guest editorial by Dr. W. Greg Leader, Interim Dean of the College of Pharmacy, published October 25, 2009 in The (Monroe, La.) News-Star

October is National Pharmacists Month, a time to recognize a key component of the health care team. These health care professionals are integral to the overall health of the patients they see, and many of them are trained at the only state-supported College of Pharmacy, right here at the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

Today, pharmacists study at least six years to become a medication expert. At ULM's College of Pharmacy, students are trained to determine the appropriateness of drug therapy, identify drug interactions with foods, other medicines and dietary supplements and to assess whether a new treatment will cause a patient's other diseases to worsen. ULM students learn how to monitor whether medications are working or causing harmful side effects, and they learn how to educate patients on taking medications and what to expect.

Additionally, the college trains 20-30 students every year to immunize patients, and partners with the Louisiana Independent Pharmacist Association to train independent pharmacists throughout the state to administer immunizations.

A pharmacist is an important and readily accessible part of the health care team, and he or she should be chosen with the same care as one might choose a physician. Because patients usually see more than one physician, it is important they use only one pharmacy. Using one pharmacy ensures one qualified professional is reviewing all medications, guaranteeing maximum benefit without unwanted or harmful effects.

An ongoing dialogue with one's pharmacist about prescription and non-prescription medications ensures optimal health. Pharmacists collaborate with physicians and other health care providers to adjust medications, ensure proper monitoring, and alert patients if they need more urgent care.

Research from the University of Arizona indicates that inappropriate medication use costs $177 billion annually in direct and indirect health care costs. For every dollar spent on prescription medications, another dollar is spent dealing with unwanted outcomes associated with drug interactions, side effects, drug toxicity or ineffective therapy.

Given the complexities of medication therapy, today, more than ever, patients need an accessible expert who can help them manage all aspects of their medication therapy. Fortunately, patients have ready access to some of the best experts available — their local pharmacists.

The next time you visit your local pharmacy, remember your pharmacist is doing more than just providing you with a product; he or she is taking care of your health. Help us celebrate National Pharmacists Month by thanking your local pharmacists and pharmacy educators.

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