Pharmacists Called “Doctor”

Long time no talk, readers! I have literally been swamped with work for the past few months, as can be expected, and I finally have a chance to breathe (and write a new blog post!).

I wanted to share my thoughts about the debate regarding whether pharmacists should be referred to as “Doctor” or not. I’ve come across many articles in the past few months with a lot of varying opinions, both from pharmacists, patients, and physicians alike. I chose to address this topic because there is a whole lot of talk out there that pharmacists should not have the privilege of having this title. I am absolutely astounded by this. As a second year pharmacy student, I cannot imagine going through this amount of work, stress, and on the job experience to be referred to by any other name. I strongly believe that any student going through a professional school program, especially programs of a medical nature, have the right to have the title of “Doctor”, whether that is a physician, a pharmacist, a dentist, a chiropractor, a physical therapist, and many other allied health professionals.

Some of the arguments out there state that pharmacists should not be called a doctor because they are not able to diagnosis. They also state that the title is confusing to patients.

Those “haters” out there are only partially right when they say that pharmacists cannot diagnose patients. Pharmacy students go through just as much anatomy, pathophysiology, and therapeutics classes as other health professionals to understand the nature of disease and provide knowledgable recommendations for our patients. As a matter of fact, as pharmacy is an incredibly dynamic and expanding field, there are pharmacists now who work in the ambulatory setting (right in the doctor’s office) who are able to monitor patients’ labs and adjust medication regimes without a doctor present. There are also clinical pharmacists in the hospital who make therapeutic decisions on a daily basis for patients, when the doctors there require a more in-depth approach to medication therapy. Pharmacists are usually not required to make such serious decisions as this when they work in the retail setting, but they are still trained in the same manner as the clinical or ambulatory care pharmacists, and are able to recognize when a patient needs further assistance and care from doctors or other health care professionals.

As for the issue of confusion, I’d like to give our patients a little more credit than that. Generally, patients are going to know who you are and what you do, just by knowing where they are. Yes, we all wear white coats, but that is an honor and a privilege to us, whether we graduated from med school, pharmacy school, dental school, or the like. Yes, all of our name tags will refer to us as “Doctor”. If our patient still has an issue understanding what our profession is and how we can help them to achieve better health, then it is our shortcomings as a health professional. If we are not able to introduce ourselves to our patients and communicate in a way that is understood, then we are the ones who need to reevaluate our approach instead of putting the blame on sharing a title that each and every one of us has earned.

On a more personal note, I am not going through the next four years of my life to be called nothing. I am taking my schooling just as seriously as any other health professional student does, and therefore, I believe wholeheartedly that I deserve to have that one word placed before my last name on my name tag. The title of “Doctor” for me is not about the prestige or to have others see me as more knowledgeable. It is a symbol of the end of my academic journey; a small reminder that I was able to make it past all the challenges and adversity that stood in my way.

Everyone have a happy and safe Halloween!

Lauren:)

 

New Antibiotic Guidelines

Howdy readers!

Big news today in the world of antibiotic medications. A new publication by JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) is suggesting that patients may not need to take an entire course of antibiotics anymore to be cured of their illness. One of the first things that they teach you about counseling in pharmacy school is that you must encourage all patients to finish their entire course of antibiotics, even if they are feeling better, to ensure total microbial annihilation.

On the flip side, we also hear about antibiotic resistance. In these cases, our bodies become so immune to the magic of antibiotics, that they simply don’t work the way they should anymore. Therefore, the bacterial/parasitic germs aren’t able to be killed, and continue to make us sicker. Normally, antibiotic resistance is not to be worried about, unless there is misuse or overuse of antibiotics. It is not the person who becomes resistant to the antibiotic medication. Rather, it is the bacteria in our bodies that become resistant to the medication, changing in such a way that it is no longer killed by the antibiotic and instead continues to grow and multiply. Antibiotic resistance is a scary thing – simple bacterial infections that were once easily treated with a course of antibiotics could becoming life-threatening.

Resistance has become a serious problem today. Patients are too scared to take antibiotics that they need. Doctors are hesitant to prescribe antibiotics under a trial and error basis for an unknown microbial cause, for fear of causing a resistance. These are all very serious and legitimate concerns, but sometimes, antibiotics are a must. With the new antibiotic guidelines published by JAMA, doctors and researchers claim that “Shorter is Better”. As with any medication, the shorter you have to take it, the more likely a patient is to stay adherent or continue taking it as prescribed. A shorter course of antibiotics may also help to prevent bacterial resistance from occurring as quickly or as often as it does now. As a disclaimer, patients should always take their medication as prescribed by their doctor, especially an antibiotic. The article in JAMA states that patients may no longer need to continue taking antibiotics past the time of symptom relief. If patients no longer feel the need to continue their antibiotics, they should always talk to their doctor and ask if continued therapy is advised.

This is a very interesting development in the world of medicine. It just goes to show you how fast and dynamic pharmacy is! I just saw on social media how some of my newly graduated Pharm.D friends are scrambling to advise patients in line with the new guidelines, which are completely different from what they spent 4 years learning in school!

Until next time,

:)Lauren

Biosniffers – The Future of Disease Diagnosis

Hi, readers!

I have another new medical technology advancement to share with you guys today. This new technology is called the “Biosniffer”. Of course, with a name like this, I am instantly curious as to what this thing is. I have to tell you, the imagery I get when I hear this word is not all that pretty. I needed to set the record straight. So I did my research.

Professor Il-Doo Kim of South Korea is developing a small sensor device that is not only very sensitive, but also very selective to diagnosing very specific disease states from the gases we emit from our breath. More specifically, the sensor is looking for volatile organic compounds within our breath. The presence of these compounds are a potential indicator of a disease state, since volatile organic compounds are not usually found in the breath analysis of a healthy individual. The information about the Biosniffer that I found online gave a few specific examples of information that it could yield — if ammonia was recognized from the breath analysis, it could indicate some kind of kidney malfunction, or the presence of toluene may indicate lung cancer.

Images from its debut article reveal that this piece of technology is not only portable; it could potentially also be wearable. Sensors have been embedded in objects, such as watches and smart phones. What’s also great about these Biosniffers is that they are noninvasive, and they are able to provide instant results. I mean, what could be easier than just exhaling onto a sensor? Amazing!

We have to keep in mind that all diagnoses of conditions must be confirmed by a health care professional, but this is a great way to begin self-monitoring for diseases, as well as potentially catch a condition in its early stages. The sensor is very sensitive, meaning all abnormal levels of gases present in your breath (or even the environment) may show up, but it doesn’t necessarily warrant a firm diagnosis. Although the Biosniffer is still in development, this would be an amazing way to catch a previously undiagnosed condition without the hassle of endless lab tests!

A more in-depth description of the way the sensor works can be found HERE.

Until next time,

:)Lauren

Future of Smoking Cessation

Howdy!

Ah, smoking cessation — a crucial intervention to be done by the pharmacist, yet one of the most awkward  and dreaded patient encounters you can imagine. Nobody wants to be cursed by a man (or woman) low on their nicotine.

Actual smoking cessation is not what I wanted to talk about today. Rather, it is the new methods of smoking cessation that I find most interesting.

An interesting study was done in late February about the effectiveness of text-message based smoking cessation. Now, if you’re anything like me, you might actually write that study off as bogus right away. Who wants constant, annoying text messages that are reminding you to take a break from your daily nicotine fix(es)? Who wants a faceless “person” telling them what not to do?

I did read the study and found the results to be shocking. 26% of the test group and 15% of the control group actually reported an 8 week period of smoking cessation all together after beginning the text message program. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, these results are actually comparable to the quit rates seen while using traditional methods of smoking cessation such as the nicotine patch, gum, lozenge, etc. I don’t know about you, but those results are pretty staggering for a text message program.

If people can use a simple text message program to quit smoking, what else can we do with this kind of technology? How else can we integrate our cell phones, laptops, iPads, and other technologies with programs and apps that are developed with our health in mind? People use health based technology very regularly – those people who check the WebMD Symptom Checker to try and self diagnose their latest ailment (and end up regretting it because WebMD always tells you that you’re having a medical emergency), those people who use their phones or FitBits to track their steps and activities every day, calorie counting apps, the list could go on and on. Why not create specific text message programs, like the smoking cessation service, that provides daily encouragement, support, and friendly reminders for those with a specific disease state or those trying to make positive lifestyle modifications? Not to mention, these text message programs are free (standard data rates may apply) as opposed to traditional methods of self-improvement.

Do you like what you’re reading? Find out more information HERE.

If you’d like to check out the study yourselves, you can find it HERE.

I hope you guys find this as interesting as I do. Technology can be detrimental, but used correctly, it can lead us to better health.

Till next time,

:)Lauren

RxIGHT -The Newest Innovation in Pharmacogenetics

Good Evening!

I couldn’t be more excited to share tonight’s post — another breakthrough in the world of pharmacogenetics! A few days ago, I read about RxIGHT, a pharmacogenetic test, which is the product of MD Labs.

In my previous post about pharmacogenomics (The Miracle Cancer Cure & Pharmacogenomics), I spoke a little about how each person is different, therefore we should not expect all therapies to be effective for everyone. By using the patient’s specific genome, we will be able to find appropriate therapies the first time around. No more guess work. No more wasted time, money, and energy. RxIGHT is an amazing tool that can help us to accomplish this with ease. We will be able to bypass therapies that won’t work and help the patient from the get-go.

They often emphasize the 7 Rights of Medication in pharmacy school — the right medication for the right patient at the right time at the right dose given by the right route for the right reason to produce the right response. A lot of “rights”, I know. But if you think about it, all of these elements are absolutely crucial for optimal patient care. With all of these “rights”, it is only appropriate to label this pharmacogenetic test with the same name. According to their website, RxIGHT is a test that patients can take (a cheek swab); their genetic profile is then measured against 200+ medications (including over-the-counter medications and prescription drugs) across 14 therapeutic categories (classes of drugs). Once the swab is sent in to the lab, your pharmacist will receive results detailing how your body is able to metabolize medications. This will ultimately help doctors to prescribe drugs that actually work for you without the negative side effects that come with medication trial and error.

In the health care world, errors happen more than they should. Patients more than likely are not aware of any of their genetic nuances that could affect how medications work in their bodies. Doctors are prescribing only the medications that they know best, even if it might not work for the patient. And pharmacists are filling the scripts and handing them off to the patients, assuming any potential issues have already been discussed in the doctor’s office. This cycle could be broken with this simple test. Medication errors would be significantly decreased and patients would see better health outcomes.

RxIGHT is a tool that helps health care professionals to eliminate any unnecessary medications, helps to provide the correct therapeutic dosing for each individual patient, and gives the patient the personalized medical approach based on their own body’s genetic needs. A patient’s time is precious. They deserve to have the best health care that we can provide as professionals.

This is an amazing new test. As always, I encourage you to check out their website and keep up with the latest!        http://www.rxight.com/

:)Lauren

Birth Control By Pharmacists?

pill

Hi Readers!

Happy “Belated” Thanksgiving!

I stumbled across an interesting read from the American Pharmacists Association newsletter a few weeks ago about how certain states are rallying for their pharmacists to have prescribing power for birth control. Pharmacists in California and Oregon are pioneering these efforts; within the next few months, women will be able to come to pharmacies in these states and get birth control without a prescription from a doctor.

How will this be possible? Instead of going to the doctor, women will instead come to the pharmacy and be asked to fill out a health questionnaire in place of bringing in a doctor’s prescription. Pharmacists will then process these questionnaires and fill the patient’s birth control method of choice (which will still be covered by insurance, of course).

What do I think about this? I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I think it’s a great option – its convenient, potentially less expensive for the patient, and could save the patient time from seeing a doctor. In theory, they say that these kinds of efforts could help prevent more unintended pregnancies than ever. On the other hand, if patients are not seeing a doctor to obtain their birth control prescriptions, patients are no longer getting any preventative screenings for cancer or assessed for other life threatening side effects of contraception such as blood clots. When patients are asked to fill out the health questionnaire in the pharmacy for a new prescription, they are simply self-assessing their current health; a lot of women may not recognize when something is wrong. Women often think that something is just a common side effect, when in reality, they could be exhibiting signs of a much more serious issue.

The above pro-con list is only from the patient’s point of view. From a pharmacist’s point of view — How will pharmacists be able to incorporate this into their already hectic days? Anyone who has worked in retail pharmacy knows this is a near impossible task – how can a pharmacy with a single pharmacist be able to: take all prescription transfers, give all the flu/shingles/pneumonia shots, verify all outgoing prescriptions, counsel patients on prescriptions AND now potentially write new scripts for birth control after trying to assess a woman’s health state from only a health questionnaire?

Is it great that pharmacists’ roles are expanding every day? Absolutely. Can pharmacists adequately balance all the tasks they are expected to do in a day? Questionable. But possible, I suppose.

What do you all think? Is this a good idea? Do the benefits outweigh the risks? I’d love to hear your input!

:)Lauren

PhotoCred: http://www.newkidscenter.com/images/1HT03550/pill.jpg