The art of pharmacy has been practiced for centuries and it is truly one of the oldest professions. According to the University of the Pacific Academy of Student Pharmacists, pharmacy and the treatment with drugs goes back to about 2600 B.C. in Babylonia and it has evolved into one of the most trusted and respected professions. The doctors and healers used to compound medicines for their patients, but starting in the late 1600s, apothecarists (the old term for pharmacists) started to compound medicines and created a variety of different medicines and tonics touted to cure different ailments. Most medicines were actually compounded by pharmacists until World War II when more drug manufacturers were started.
Pharmacists not only compounded, but started filling prescriptions for commercial products and this became the primary function of the pharmacists. Education requirements increased from 3-4 years of pharmacy school to 5 years and patient counseling was the focus in the 1970s through 1980s. Health professionals and physicians started to notice the importance of pharmacists and their roles and education have expanded. Now pharmacists go to school for 6-7 years to earn a doctorate and specialize with a 1-2 year residency. They not only counsel patients, but monitor treatments, consult with health professionals and doctors, and research the literature to find treatments to meet patients’ individual needs. Pharmacy technicians have taken over the more traditional roles of pharmacists and are responsible for processing prescriptions and compounding. Most technicians are going through professional training programs and most companies, health-systems, and states require licensure and/or certification.
Back in 1931, National Pharmacy Week was established to honor the role of pharmacists in the field of medicine. The entire month of October is now American Pharmacists Month to honor pharmacists, technicians, and the expanding role of pharmacy in the development of new drugs and technology. Pharmacists are the most accessible healthcare professional for patients and often provide their services and expertise for no charge 24/7, 365 days per year. In health-systems, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are often working behind the scenes to improve the safety and quality of care for patients. It can be a thankless job and a lot of people, especially the general public, do not realize the importance of the pharmacy staff. Since this is American Pharmacists Month, thank your pharmacists and pharmacy technicians for all that they do with a small token, such as food or a gift, or recognize them in company newsletters or even social media. Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians will always be there for you!