When most people think of pharmacists, they see them as dispensing medications. But today, as medical care has advanced and becomes more complex, pharmacists are called upon to do a good deal more than fill prescriptions.
Because they often are the healthcare providers that patients see most and are most accessible to patients, they are often called upon to evaluate medical conditions and determine how urgently a patient needs treatment. These clinical skills show just how important pharmacists are in a healthcare system, often working at the limits of what they can handle.
For example, pharmacists are involved in prescription therapy for clot prevention. They need to know the difference between antiplatelet therapy for white blood cell clots, which involve platelets, and anticoagulant therapy for red blood cell clots. If a patient has a deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism, it requires aspirin and/or clopidogrel, which are antiplatelet therapies.
A Case Study
Knowing this difference can help save a patient’s life. One pharmacist received a call from the wife of a patient taking apixaban (Eliquis), an anticoagulant for red blood cells. She wanted to know about the drug’s adverse side effects because her husband was experiencing severe shortness of breath. Knowing that Eliquis is not a treatment for white blood cell clots, such as an embolism, the pharmacist surmised that it could be an embolism causing breathing problems.
The pharmacist told the woman to get her husband to a hospital immediately. He was taken to the emergency room, and from there to the X-ray department where a CT scan was performed. It showed bilateral pulmonary emboli. The pharmacist’s advice saved the man’s life.
The patient explained later that he had earlier developed a blood clot in his leg and was put on the anticoagulant.
The case illustrates that pharmacists and their expertise in drug therapy also need to be knowledgeable in disease state management. Pharmacists are on the frontline of healthcare, often dispensing essential medical advice and medication, which points out their importance as part of the healthcare team – as this particular patient discovered.
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