The Pharmacist’s Role in Opioid Treatment

Hydrocodone with Acetaminophen Tablets on a Prescription Form

The job of a pharmacist is so much more complicated than counting pills. The pharmacist works closely with doctors to ensure medications are being correctly prescribed to the patients. A pharmacist must remain knowledgeable about potential uses for all medications, not only common uses but also off-label uses. A pharmacist is informed of any known side effects of a drug, as well as known drug interactions. A pharmacist has access to a patient’s medication history and looks for drug interactions or possible drug allergies. Beyond just comparing a prescribed medication to a patient’s individual file, however, the pharmacist must verify that the medication prescribed in the dose ordered makes sense for the patient. In this way, the pharmacist has a huge responsibility in preventing improper use of opioid medications.

A large responsibility for pharmacists is verifying the authenticity of a prescription. While a pharmacy technician may actually take the prescription from a patient, the pharmacist still looks over the script to ensure it has not been tampered with and appears authentic. Most doctors have authenticator marks on their prescription pads, such as watermarks or areas that change color with temperature changes. If the pharmacist has any reason to doubt the legitimacy of a prescription, she will phone the doctor’s office to verify the prescription is legitimate. If the prescription is fraudulent, the pharmacist must refuse to fill it and report the fraud to the police. Furthermore, the pharmacist is obligated to take action if she believes a doctor is deliberately misprescribing any medication, including opioids.

More surprising to most people is just how involved a pharmacist may be in a patient’s treatment. Community pharmacists are certainly busy and may have difficulty being as involved in a patient’s overall care as they once may have been. However, a pharmacist, even a busy one, still has her patients’ best interests at heart. A good pharmacist always makes herself available to discuss concerns and answer questions. If in the course of speaking with a customer, the pharmacist believes a doctor is not prescribing the correct medication, it is within the scope of the pharmacist’s practice to contact the physician. For as many doctors over-prescribe opioid painkillers, there are just as many doctors who refuse to prescribe opioid painkillers, regardless of the patient’s condition. If a pharmacist suspects a physician is deliberately withholding the best form of treatment, the pharmacist may act as an advocate for the patient’s health and contact the physician.

If you do not believe your doctor is using the best treatment methods for you, first speak with your doctor about your concerns. If your doctor does not respond to your concerns, it may be wise to seek a different physician.

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