Pharmacy: Top 5 Commonly Asked Questions


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The pharmacy is a place where people can access a medical professional without having an appointment. (Although, this probably will be changing within the next 10 years). I think we are far too accessible. Pharmacy is not a place to come to when you’ve an open bleeding wound and want someone to bandage you up. Pharmacy should not be a place you come to for primary health care. However, due to the constraints on the Canadian health care system, pharmacy is often the first stop before receiving primary care. Pharmacy should be a place to come if you have questions regarding treatment of medical conditions. Or if you need advice on medication management. Having worked in a community pharmacy for a while now I believe I have just about heard it all. Not only heard it all, but I have been asked every question I can think of. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions I encounter in my community pharmacy practice.

Can I Drink Alcohol?

I am asked this question all the time in the pharmacy. Usually when I’m providing advice on prescription medications. Most people assume they’re able to consume alcohol with over-the-counter products. But this isn’t true. There are medications that are available over-the-counter that probably shouldn’t be mixed with alcohol. Just an example are anti-inflammatories. Those such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or asa. These products are very irritating on the stomach lining. If taken long-term, it will break down protective mechanisms that prevent ulceration. Alcohol, is very irritating on the stomach lining as well. Combining the two, especially in excess, is a recipe for disaster and been known to cause stomach ulcers.

People generally ask this question when they’re picking up their antibiotic for an infection. Metronidazole is one of the important ones to remember not to drink alcohol with. It can cause a severe reaction that causes extreme nausea, vomiting and flushing. It is recommended to avoid alcohol completely, even in small quantities.

Alcohol does interact with certain medications. So this question is definitely an important one to ask.

Do I Take This With Food?

There are generally two situations here. One where food decreases how much drug gets absorbed and the other is when food increases the amount of drug absorbed. Depending on the chemical make-up of the medication in question, the answer, of course, could vary. Also, all food is not created equal. Therefore, the answer could vary depending on the types of food. With certain antibiotics, food is okay and sometimes recommended to prevent stomach upset, but only when the food is not dairy. Dairy products are known to contain calcium. Calcium can bind to medication, much like a paperclip to a magnet, and prevent the body from absorbing it. Not all antibiotics, but some. Food can not only reduce stomach upset but can stimulate the stomach to produce acid that helps break down medications. It can work the other way. Depending on the medication, too much stomach acid can degrade or inactivate it.

 What Can I Take To Boost Energy?

This is something that I am asked all the time. Surprisingly, it’s usually the young adults who are asking me this. Their complaints are of always being tired and never feeling awake. So they come to the pharmacy to find something to boost their energy levels. Most people are looking for the best multivitamin or supplement to give them energy. They heard B vitamins were the best. Sorry, doesn’t work that way. Nothing out there works to boost energy except for stimulants such as caffeine or prescription meds. There has never been anything proven (scientifically) that supplementation with extra vitamins can give you more energy. Yes, B vitamins are essential for our body to produce energy. But more is not better. The only way you will feel a difference from supplementing with vitamins is if you have a clinical deficiency. Otherwise, don’t bother spending the money. Go to your doctor. There are certain medical conditions that can cause extreme fatigue. Simple blood work could save you lots of time and money otherwise spent at the pharmacy.

What’s The Best Medication for Cold and Flu?

Short and sweet. The best medication for cold and flu are those that treat your symptoms. No, they’re not going to speed recovery. No, they wont prevent the cold from progressing. If you’re experiencing symptoms of a cold or flu, you’re going to have to wait it out. Cough and cold products will help a bit. They’re no miracle cure… but they’re all we have. When you’re looking for something to help with a bad cough don’t think that something with codeine or behind the counter will be more effective. Codeine products for cough haven’t been proven to suppress cough better than over-the-counter products. The only thing that they are better at is causing drowsiness.

Are These Medications Okay To Take Together?

Interactions are another important consideration. What are the chances that these medications interact with each other? This is a legitimate concern. Combination of prescriptions, especially narcotics, can be extremely dangerous. Thousands of deaths per year are attributed to abuse of multiple prescription medications. It is impossible to memorize all drug interactions. That’s why there’s a database like Medscape Multi-Drug Interaction Checker.

If you’re unsure as to the significance of an interaction then talk to a health care professional. Don’t use information found on the internet to answer your questions.

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