The Legal Drug Dealer: Pharmacists are not magicians


Have you ever had a friend or family member so ill that you dashed to the pharmacy to get them some drugs? So easy and convenient right? Have you also been in such a situation that you went to the hospital on their behalf?

Got to the records section, took a folder, got your vitals checked and entered the consulting room only to tell the doctor you are there for a different person?

Imagine how awkward it will be to go to the hospital on behalf of someone. I bet the doctor will refer you to see a psychiatrist, because they cannot be sure of your sanity.

So why is the narrative different when you have to go to the community pharmacy?

The commonest excuses for not bringing the patient are  ‘they are too weak to come here. The mother told me to get drug X when returning from work. I don’t know what is wrong with the child. She was asleep.”’

It is especially important for the pharmacist to see the patient when they are children. Most doses for children are calculated based on their weight.

Most pharmacists have found themselves in a situation where they have made the one running the errand to describe how big or small, tall or short, heavy or light the child is to arrive at an approximate weight.

This practice, albeit convenient, does a lot of harm than good to everyone involved. The only way to curb this practice is for carers to bring along the patients to the pharmacy.

Basic tests and investigations are conducted in various pharmacies when patients come in such as blood pressure, blood glucose, body weights and body mass index (BMI), haemoglobin as well as rapid diagnostic tests for malaria and typhoid.

These tests can be conducted when the patient is present. We are, therefore, forced to use intuition in their absence.

Another typical example is when someone is battling with a skin condition. It is easy to treat blindly a bacterial infection as fungal, or a fungal as an allergic reaction.

Why is it necessary to bring the patient to the Pharmacy?

  • To arrive at the right diagnosis:

Most of these people who come to the pharmacies have little or no information about what ails the patient. For instance, the person comes to buy a cough preparation and does not know whether the person is experiencing a wet or dry cough. If wet, they may not know the colour of the phlegm, which is a good determinant of what the patient may be suffering from.

  • To ensure that appropriate treatment is given to the patient

If the diagnosis is right, the choice of treatment will be spot on.

  • To leave little or no room for errors
  • To achieve the treatment objectives

Every pharmacist wants their patient to get on the feet at the quickest possible time.

  • To foster the spirit of adherence

Involving a patient in the decision making has shown to improve adherence in patients as the best and most convenient treatment regiment will be given.

For instance, a pharmacist can only know a patient cannot do a four-times daily antibiotic and, therefore, gives a two-times a day prescription when the patient is involved in the decision making. They can only be involved if they are there.

  • Reducing under or overdose of medication.]
  • Reduce wastage of resources.

Time, money and strength are resources we should not ignore. Imagine retreating an infection because the pharmacist did a blind treatment.

Accurate diagnosis and treatment mean reduced duration of the illness, reduced medical bills and improved quality of life.

The next time you think the pharmacist is being difficult, remember the health of the patient is paramount. Help us, help you. The pharmacist reserves all the right to see the patient.


My tip for this week:

Keep your medicines to yourself. Prescription medicines especially are for you alone. Even if someone has the same symptoms as you, you cannot be sure you cannot be sure it is the same condition; diseases mimic each other.

  1. Mr.Agyare says

    Thanks alot for this update.We would definitely adhere as time goes on.God bless you for taking time to address such issues from time to time. By the way,can the article be proof-read before it is posted? Seems there are some repetitions and one omission. Thanks alot

    1. Anonymous says

      Good work. Thanks

  2. Stephen says

    Great work , please do well to skim through before you post …thanks

  3. Enoch says

    “It is especially important for the pharmacist to see the patient when they are children. Most doses for children are calculated based on their weight.” That is interesting. But how many pharmacies check this even when the kids are present. Perhaps there is a gap between the ideal and what is actually practised in pharmacy shops.

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