National Pharmacist Day is recognized by several national and state pharmacy organizations. It honors and recognizes the important role that pharmacists play in healthcare.
Pharmacists’ role in healthcare has evolved over centuries and significantly changed over the past 30 years. Before WW II, pharmacists compounded most medications that they dispensed pursuant to a physician’s prescription or order. After WW II, pharmacists performed the more familiar and traditional “lick and stick” pharmacy – counting tablets and capsules or measuring liquids, putting them in properly labeled prescription bottles, and counseling the patients about the use and storage.Now that the entry-level degree is a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD), pharmacists are part of the healthcare team. Clinical pharmacists round with medical teams in hospitals, monitor patients’ therapies, and provide recommendations to the team members. Homecare pharmacists and consultants monitor patients’ therapies at home or in long-term care facilities and also make recommendations to the attending physicians and healthcare staff. Nuclear pharmacists compound radiopharmaceuticals in a safe, protected environment and assist nuclear medicine providers by preparing radioactive medications for treatment or tagging a patient’s white blood cells to find difficult sources of infection. Pharmacists working in retail chains are now involved with patient counseling about medications (OTC and prescription), monitoring certain disease states, such as diabetes or hypercholesterolemia, and administering immunizations. Pharmacists working in independently-owned pharmacies often specialize in bio-identical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT), veterinary services, nutrition and wellness, and/or compound for a variety of medical conditions that are not adequately treated with traditional, commercially-available medications, such as pain management or hospice care.
Pharmacists are usually the most accessible healthcare providers and the first ones to respond to disasters or drug shortages. In the recent natural disasters many pharmacists were immediately traveling about in their communities in harsh conditions, seeking out patients needing life-saving medications. Craig A. Recatto, PhD, President of Spectrum Pharmacy Products, commented in a January 11, 2018 press release, “With their extraordinary service, these pharmacists have expressed the highest standards of the pharmacy profession and we honor them.”
From responding to community and industry challenges to expanding involvement in the continuum of care, the responsibilities of pharmacists continue to evolve. In the future, pharmacists may play a more vital role in the field of pharmacogenomics or patient-specific, personalized medicine and even in the growing need for medicinal marijuana.