A community pharmacy is where a practicing pharmacist sells pharmaceuticals and other health care or retail products directly to the public, independent of other health care providers.Community pharmacies are located in both rural and urban settings, often in downtown centers of small communities and scattered across different neighborhoods in many big cities. Some are independently owned by a licensed pharmacist, which is often in common rural settings. Others are large, established retail chains that are often found in more urban settings.
The main activities of community pharmacists are described below:
Processing of prescriptions
The pharmacist verifies the legality, safety and appropriateness of the prescription order, checks the patient medication record before dispensing the prescription (when such records are kept in the pharmacy), ensures that the quantities of medication are dispensed accurately, and decides whether the medication should be handed to the patient, with appropriate counselling, by a pharmacist. In many countries, the community pharmacist is in a unique position to be fully aware of the patient’s past and current drug history and, consequently, can provide essential advice to the prescriber.
Care of patients or clinical pharmacy
The pharmacist seeks to collect and integrate information about the patient’s drug history, clarify the patient’s understanding of the intended dosage regimen and method of administration, and advises the patient of drug-related precautions, and in some countries, monitors and evaluates the therapeutic response.
Monitoring of drug utilization
The pharmacist can participate in arrangements for monitoring the utilization of drugs, such as practice research projects, and schemes to analyse prescriptions for the monitoring of adverse drug reactions.
Extemporaneous preparation and small-scale manufacture of medicines
Pharmacists everywhere continue to prepare medicines in the pharmacy. This enables them to adapt the formulation of a medicine to the needs of an individual patient. New developments in drugs and delivery systems may well extend the need for individually adapted medicines and thus increase the pharmacist’s need to continue with pharmacy formulation. In some countries, developed and developing, pharmacists engage in the small-scale manufacture of medicines, which must accord with good manufacturing and distribution practice guidelines.
Responding to symptoms of minor ailments
The pharmacist receives requests from members of the public for advice on a variety of symptoms and, when indicated, refers the inquiries to a medical practitioner. If the symptoms relate to a self-limiting minor ailment, the pharmacist can supply a non-prescription medicine, with advice to consult a medical practitioner if the symptoms persist for more than a few days. Alternatively, the pharmacist may give advice without supplying medicine.
Informing health care professionals and the public
The pharmacist can compile and maintain information on all medicines, and particularly on newly introduced medicines, provide this information as necessary to other health care professionals and to patients, and use it in promoting the rational use of drugs, by providing advice and explanations to physicians and to members of the public.
The pharmacist can take part in health promotion campaigns, locally and nationally, on a wide range of health-related topics, and particularly on drug-related topics (e.g., rational use of drugs, alcohol abuse, tobacco use, discouragement of drug use during pregnancy, organic solvent abuse, poison prevention) or topics concerned with other health problems (diarrhoeal diseases, tuberculosis, leprosy, HIV-infection/AIDS) and family planning. They may also take part in the education of local community groups in health promotion, and in campaigns on disease prevention, such as the Expanded Programme on Immunization, and malaria and blindness programmes.
In a number of countries, the pharmacist provides an advisory as well as a supply service to residential homes for the elderly, and other long-term patients. In some countries, policies are being developed under which pharmacists will visit certain categories of house-bound patients to provide the counselling service that the patients would have received had they been able to visit the pharmacy.
Relying on the authority, responsibility and reliability of the community pharmacist, patients often look to the community pharmacy for healthcare needs.
Careers in Pharmacy