Pharmacists Put Their Patients First

May 14, 2009

(As submitted to Prevention Magazine)

To the Editor:

Community pharmacists are knowledgeable and trustworthy health care professionals fully committed to their patients. A recent article ("The Great Drug Switcheroo," May 2009) left readers with the false impression that pharmacists are putting the pursuit of a few extra dollars ahead of the patients' best interests. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Despite the article's suggestion, pharmacists do not provide patients with medications different than what was prescribed. Pharmacists do provide lower-cost, equally effective generic drug- a process known as "generic substitution." In most states, patient consent is required. However, some insurance plans require generic substitution as a condition of paying for the prescription.

The author seems to mistake generic substitution for "therapeutic substitution" in which the medications involved have similar effects but not the same active ingredients. Pharmacists abide by state laws that require the doctor's permission to do a therapeutic substitution.

Patients and their community pharmacists should have an open dialogue about the medications they take and the underlying conditions they're intended to treat. Unfortunately, that's less likely to happen when the public is misled about the pharmacists' loyalties and their role as a health care provider.

Sincerely,
Bruce T. Roberts
Executive Vice President and CEO
National Community Pharmacists Association
Alexandria, VA

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