Many patients need another service they're even less likely to get than routine prescription counseling: medication therapy management.
This review of all the medications a patient is taking -- including over-the-counter medications, herbal products and dietary supplements, as well as prescription drugs -- can take up to an hour for the first session, with follow-ups possible. Though it's not required by law, it's crucial to ensure that none of the patient's medications are duplicating each other, or canceling each other out, or interacting in a problematic, even dangerous way. Such problems arise most often, but not exclusively, with patients who are taking five or more medications that may well have been prescribed by more than one physician.
In medication therapy management, the pharmacist can work with a patient's physician (or physicians) to develop a comprehensive program of drug therapy -- perhaps eliminating or adding or switching medications. Often this ends up saving the patient money and, more important, improving the patient's health.
"Pharmacists can't do this by themselves," says Anne Burns, vice president for professional affairs for the American Pharmacists Assn. "But they bring a unique expertise to the table. And by relieving some of the burden on physicians, it frees them up to concentrate on diagnosis."