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Pharmacy (from the Greek φάρμακον = drug) is the health profession that links the health sciences with the chemical sciences, and it is charged with ensuring the safe use of medication. The scope of pharmacy practice includes more traditional roles such as compounding and dispensing medications on the orders of physicians, and it also includes more modern services related to patient care, including clinical services, reviewing medications for safety and efficacy, and providing drug information. Pharmacists, therefore, are experts on drug therapy and are the primary health professionals who optimize medication use to provide patients with positive health outcomes.
The field of Pharmacy can generally be divided into three primary disciplines:
The boundaries between these disciplines and with other sciences, such as biochemistry, are not always clear-cut; and often, collaborative teams from various disciplines research together.
Pharmacology is sometimes considered a fourth discipline of pharmacy. Although pharmacology is essential to the study of pharmacy, it is not specific to pharmacy. Therefore it is usually considered to be a field of the broader sciences.
There are various specialties of pharmacy practice. Specialization in pharmacy practice is typically based on the place of practice or practice roles including: community, hospital, clinical pharmacy, consultant, locum, drug information, regulatory affairs, industry, and academia.
Other specializations in pharmacy practice recognized by the Board of Pharmaceutical Specialties include: cardiovascular, infectious disease, oncology, pharmacotherapy, nuclear, nutrition, and psychiatry. The Commission for Certification in Geriatric Pharmacy certifies pharmacists in geriatric pharmacy practice. The American Board of Applied Toxicology certifies pharmacists and other medical professionals in applied toxicology.
Pharmacists are highly-trained and skilled healthcare professionals who perform various roles to ensure optimal health outcomes for their patients. Many pharmacists are also small-business owners, owning the pharmacy in which they practice.
Pharmacists are represented internationally by the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP). They are represented at the national level by professional organisations such as the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB), the Pharmacy Guild of Australia (PGA), and the American Pharmacists Association (APhA). See also: List of pharmacy associations.
In some cases, the representative body is also the registering body, which is responsible for the ethics of the profession. Since the Shipman Inquiry, there has been a move in the UK to separate the two roles.
History of Pharmacy
The advances the Middle East made in botany and chemistry led them to substantially develop pharmacology, Al-Razi (865-915), for instance, acted to promote the medical uses of chemical compounds. al-Zahrawi (936-1013) pioneered the preparation of medicines by sublimation and distillation. His Liber servitoris is of particular interest, as it provides the reader with recipes and explains how to prepare the `simples’ from which were compounded the complex drugs then generally used. Sabur Ibn Sahl (d 869), was, however, the first physician to initiate pharmacopoedia, describing a large variety of drugs and remedies for ailments. Al-Biruni (973-1050) wrote one of the most valuable Islamic works on pharmacology entitled Kitab al-Saydalah (The Book of Drugs), where he gave detailed knowledge of the properties of drugs and outlined the role of pharmacy and the functions and duties of the pharmacist. Ibn Sina, too, described no less than 700 preparations, their properties, mode of action and their indications. He devoted in fact a whole volume to simple drugs in his Canon. Of great impact were also the works by al-Maridini of Baghdad and Cairo, and Ibn al-Wafid (1008-1074), both of which were printed in Latin more than fifty times, appearing as De Medicinis universalibus et particularibus by `Mesue' the younger, and the Medicamentis simplicibus by `Abenguefit'. Peter of Abano (1250-1316) translated and added a supplement to the work of al-Maridini under the title De Veneris. al-Muwaffaq’s contributions in the field are also pioneering. Living in the tenth century, he wrote The foundations of the true properties of Remedies, amongst others describing arsenious oxide, and being acquainted with silicic acid. He made clear distinction between sodium carbonate and potassium carbonate, and drew attention to the poisonous nature of copper compounds, especially copper vitriol, and also lead compounds. For the story, he also mentions the distillation of sea-water for drinking.
Types of pharmacy practice settings and roles
A pharmacy (commonly the chemist in Australia, New Zealand and the UK; or drugstore in North America; or Apothecary, historically) is the place where most pharmacists practice the profession of pharmacy. It is the community pharmacy where the dichotomy of the profession exists—health professionals who are also retailers.
Community pharmacies usually consist of a retail storefront with a dispensary where medications are stored and dispensed. The dispensary is subject to pharmacy legislation; with requirements for storage conditions, compulsory texts, equipment, etc., specified in legislation. Where it was once the case that pharmacists stayed within the dispensary compounding/dispensing medications; there has been an increasing trend towards the use of trained pharmacy technicians while the pharmacist spends more time communicating with patients.
All pharmacies are required to have a pharmacist on-duty at all times when open. In many jurisdictions, it is also a requirement that the owner of a pharmacy must be a registered pharmacist (R.Ph.). This latter requirement has been revoked in many jurisdictions, such that many retailers (including supermarkets and mass merchandisers) now include a pharmacy as a department of their store.
Likewise, many pharmacies are now rather grocery store-like in their design. In addition to medicines and prescriptions, many now sell a diverse arrangement of additional household items such as cosmetics, shampoo, bandages, office supplies, candy, and snack foods.
Pharmacies within hospitals differ considerably from community pharmacies. Some pharmacists in hospital pharmacies may have more complex clinical medication management issues whereas pharmacists in community pharmacies often have more complex business and customer relations issues.
Because of the complexity of medications including specific indications, effectiveness of treatment regimens, safety of medications (i.e., drug interactions) and patient compliance issues ( in the hospital and at home) many pharmacists practicing in hospitals gain more education and training after pharmacy school through a pharmacy practice residency and sometimes followed by another residency in a specific area. Those pharmacists are often referred to as clinical pharmacists and they often specialize in various disciplines of pharmacy. For example, there are pharmacists who specialize in haematology/oncology, HIV/AIDS, infectious disease, critical care, emergency medicine, toxicology, nuclear pharmacy, pain management, psychiatry, anticoagulation clinics, herbal medicine, neurology/epilepsy management, paediatrics, neonatal pharmacists and more.
Hospital pharmacies can usually be found within the premises of the hospital. Hospital pharmacies usually stock a larger range of medications, including more specialized medications, than would be feasible in the community setting. Most hospital medications are unit-dose, or a single dose of medicine. Hospital pharmacists and trained pharmacy technicians compound sterile products for patients including total parenteral nutrition (TPN), and other medications given intravenously. This is a complex process that requires adequate training of personnel, quality assurance of products, and adequate facilities. Some hospital pharmacies have decided to outsource high risk preparations and some other compounding functions to companies who specialize in compounding.
Clinical pharmacists provide direct patient care services that optimizes the use of medication and promotes health, wellness, and disease prevention. Clinical pharmacists care for patients in all health care settings but the clinical pharmacy movement initially began inside Hospitals and clinics. Clinical pharmacists often collaborate with Physicians and other healthcare professionals.
Compounding is the practice of preparing drugs in new forms. For example, if a drug manufacturer only provides a drug as a tablet, a compounding pharmacist might make a medicated lollipop that contains the drug. Patients who have difficulty swallowing the tablet may prefer to suck the medicated lollipop instead.
Compounding pharmacies specialize in compounding, although many also dispense the same non-compounded drugs that patients can obtain from community pharmacies.
Consultant pharmacy practice focuses more on medication regimen review (i.e. "cognitive services") than on actual dispensing of drugs. Consultant pharmacists most typically work in nursing homes, but are increasingly branching into other institutions and non-institutional settings. Traditionally consultant pharmacists were usually independent business owners, though in the United States many now work for several large pharmacy management companies (primarily Omnicare, Kindred Healthcare and PharMerica). This trend may be gradually reversing as consultant pharmacists begin to work directly with patients, primarily because many elderly people are now taking numerous medications but continue to live outside of institutional settings. Some community pharmacies employ consultant pharmacists and/or provide consulting services.
Since about the year 2000, a growing number of Internet pharmacies have been established worldwide. Many of these pharmacies are similar to community pharmacies, and in fact, many of them are actually operated by brick-and-mortar community pharmacies that serve consumers online and those that walk in their door. The primary difference is the method by which the medications are requested and received. Some customers consider this to be more convenient and private method rather than traveling to a community drugstore where another customer might overhear about the drugs that they take. Internet pharmacies (also known as Online Pharmacies) are also recommended to some patients by their physicians if they are homebound.
While most Internet pharmacies sell prescription drugs and require a valid prescription, some Internet pharmacies sell prescription drugs without requiring a prescription. Many customers order drugs from such pharmacies to avoid the "inconvenience" of visiting a doctor or to obtain medications which their doctors were unwilling to prescribe. However, this practice has been criticized as potentially dangerous, especially by those who feel that only doctors can reliably assess contraindications, risk/benefit ratios, and an individual's overall suitability for use of a medication. There also have been reports of such pharmacies dispensing substandard products. Of course as history has shown, substandard products can be dispensed by both Internet and Community pharmacies, so it is best that the buyer beware.
Canada is home to dozens of licensed Internet pharmacies, many which sell their lower-cost prescription drugs to U.S. consumers, who pay the world's highest drug prices. However, there are Internet pharmacies in many other countries including Israel, Fiji and the UK that serve customers worldwide.
In the United States, there has been a push to legalize importation of medications from Canada and other countries, in order to reduce consumer costs. While in most cases importation of prescription medications violates Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations and federal laws, enforcement is generally targeted at international drug suppliers, rather than consumers. There is no known case of any U.S. citizens buying Canadian drugs for personal use with a prescription, who has ever been charged by authorities.
Nuclear pharmacy focuses on preparing radioactive materials for diagnostic tests and for treating certain diseases. Nuclear pharmacists undergo additional training specific to handling radioactive materials, and unlike in community and hospital pharmacies, nuclear pharmacists typically do not interact directly with patients.
Issues in pharmacy
Separation of prescribing from dispensing
In most jurisdictions (such as the United States), pharmacists are regulated separately from physicians. Specifically, the legislation stipulates that the practice of prescribing must be separate from the practice of dispensing. These jurisdictions also usually specify that only pharmacists may supply scheduled pharmaceuticals to the public, and that pharmacists cannot form business partnerships with physicians or give them "kickback" payments. However, the American Medical Association (AMA) Code of Ethics provides that physicians may dispense drugs within their office practices as long as there is no patient exploitation and patients have the right to a written prescription that can be filled elsewhere. 7 to 10 percent of American physician practices reportedly dispense drugs on their own.
In other jurisdictions (particularly in Asian countries such as China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore), doctors are allowed to dispense drugs themselves and the practice of pharmacy is sometimes integrated with that of the physician, particularly in traditional Chinese medicine.
In Canada it is common for a medical clinic and a pharmacy to be located together and for the ownership in both enterprises to be common, but licensed separately.
The reason for the majority rule is the high risk of a conflict of interest. Otherwise, the physician has a financial self-interest in "diagnosing" as many conditions as possible, and in exaggerating their seriousness, because he or she can then sell more medications to the patient. Such self-interest directly conflicts with the patient's interest in obtaining cost-effective medication and avoiding the unnecessary use of medication that may have side-effects.
A campaign for separation has begun in many countries and has already been successful (like in Korea). As many of the remaining nations move towards separation, resistance and lobbying from dispensing doctors who have pecuniary interests may prove a major stumbling block (e.g. in Malaysia).
The future of pharmacy
In the coming decades, pharmacists are expected to become more integral within the health care system. Rather than simply dispensing medication, pharmacists will be paid for their patient care skills.
This paradigm shift has already commenced in some countries; for instance, pharmacists in Australia receive remuneration from the Australian Government for conducting comprehensive Home Medicines Reviews. In the United Kingdom, pharmacists (and nurses) who undertake additional training are obtaining prescribing rights. They are also being paid for by the government for medicine use reviews. In the United States, the Clinical pharmacy movement has had an evolving influence on the practice of pharmacy. Moreover, the Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree is now required before entering practice and many pharmacists now complete one or two years of residency training following graduation. In addition, consultant pharmacists, who traditionally operated primarily in nursing homes are now expanding into direct consultation with patients, under the banner of "senior care pharmacy."
- Bachelor of Pharmacy, Master of Pharmacy, Doctor of Pharmacy
- Clinical pharmacy
- Consultant pharmacist
- Doctor of Pharmacy
- Evidence-based pharmacy in developing countries
- Hospital pharmacy
- List of pharmacies
- List of pharmacy associations
- List of pharmacy organizations in the United Kingdom
- List of pharmacy schools
- Nuclear pharmacy
- Pharmaceutical company
- Raeapteek (one of the oldest continuously run pharmacies in Europe dating from the 15th century)
- American Society for Pharmacy Law
The two symbols most commonly associated with pharmacy are the mortar and pestle and the ℞ (recipere) character, which is often written as "rx" in typed text. Pharmacy organizations often use other symbols, such as the Bowl of Hygieia, conical measures, and caduceuses in their logos. Other symbols are common in different countries: the green Greek cross in France and the United Kingdom, the increasingly-rare Gaper in The Netherlands, and a red stylized letter A in Germany and Austria (from Apotheke, the German word for pharmacy, from the same Greek root as the English word 'apothecary').
- Board of Pharmaceutical Specialties, Current Specialties
- Levey M. (1973), ‘ Early Arabic Pharmacology’, E. J. Brill; Leiden.
- American College of Clinical Pharmacy, Clinical Pharmacy Defined
- American Society of Consultant Pharmacists, Frequently Asked Questions
- American Association of State Compensation Insurance Funds, Prepackaged Drugs in Workers' Compensation
- American College of Clinical Pharmacy, Evidence of the Economic Benefit of Clinical Pharmacy Services: 1996–2000
- American College of Clinical Pharmacy, Clinical Pharmacy Defined
- American Society of Consultant Pharmacists, What is a Senior Care Pharmacist?
- Navigator History of Pharmacy Collection of internet resources related to the history of pharmacy.
- RPSGB Museum Information Sheets Illustrated information sheets on objects in the history of pharmacy.
- History of Pharmacy Web Pages Perbo's History of Pharmacy Web Pages.
- Soderlund Pharmacy Museum - Information about the history of the American Drugstore
- The Lloyd Library Library of botanical, medical, pharmaceutical, and scientific books and periodicals, and works of allied sciences
- American Institute of the History of Pharmacy American Institute of the History of Pharmacy--resources in the history of pharmacy
- Pharmer - Pharmaceutical Information Online.
- The Virtual Library of Pharmacy - Extensive index of pharmacy-related resources, including information on careers in pharmacy, pharmacy schools, pharmaceuticaul companies, associations and conferences.
- Pakistan Pharmacists Society - National association of pharmacists to promote and expand their role in public health and patient care in Pakistan.
- Pharmacist's Letter - Unbiased, research based resource for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians on new developments in drug therapy
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