Magazine article Drug Topics

The Good of Every Patient

Magazine article Drug Topics

The Good of Every Patient

Article excerpt

ETHICAL DECISION-MAKING IN PHARMACY

The patient approached the pharmacy counter to pick up his prescription which he had dropped off a few minutes before. The prescription was for warfarin. When the pharmacist presented the completed prescription to the patient, the patient went out of his way to make sure the pharmacist saw that he was also buying full-strength aspirin. The pharmacist did not warn the patient that there could be a problem in taking aspirin along with warfarin.

Timely reminder

Actually, this was not a real patient or a real prescription. It was part of a joint project undertaken as an ABC News investigation and a study conducted by Auburn University School of Pharmacy.1

The "patient" was an ABC "20/20" producer who, along with his colleagues, surreptitiously filmed 100 encounters testing various aspects of pharmacy counseling and errors. In the 25 cases similar to the one above, only eight "patients" were warned of the potentially serious combination of warfarin and aspirin.

The producers all paid cash. Of the 100 new prescriptions presented by ABC producers, counseling was offered for only 27%. Twenty -two percent of the prescriptions contained some error, although many were minor. ABC commented, ". . . with only a few exceptions, our producers were never told they were signing forms that also included language to waive the legal right to counseling with a pharmacist."

This study and the resulting television episode presented on ABC's "20/20" took place in 2007. Whether the results would be different today could be a subject of debate. This investigation can still provide pharmacists and technicians with a warning that they may be on "Candid Camera," as well as an opportunity to consider how important their role is in the health of their patients.

More than a science

The second tenet of the Code of Ethics for Pharmacists is "A pharmacist promotes the good of every patient in a caring, compassionate, and confidential manner." In the midst of days that are hectic and stressed, we can all be guided by the words accompanying this standard which read in part, "With a caring attitude and a compassionate spirit, a pharmacist focuses on serving the patient in a private and confidential manner."2

It presents a lofty goal.

Pharmacy is a science. It involves the science of pharmacokinetics and pharmacology, as well as biology and sometimes psychology. In pharmacy schools today, students spend countless hours learning about drugs, including what makes them work and factors that may make them work better. …

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