Letter: Pharmacists need more time to help patients and catch mistakes

The three main functions of a pharmacist are to provide safe, effective, and affordable medications to their patients. As pharmacy students soon to graduate, we wonder how we will be able to provide these essential services in a field dominated by chain retail pharmacies who value metrics over patient safety. According to U.S. Department of Labor statistics, 57% of licensed pharmacists work in community pharmacies, predominantly in chain stores such as Walgreens, Rite Aid, and CVS.

The contemporary pharmacy curriculum emphasizes the prevention of medical errors and providing the most personalized medication regimen possible. This is done via a thorough review of a patient’s profile including notes doctors and nurses have written, laboratory values, and current medications. The simple truth is: There is no time for any of this in modern chain pharmacies.

All in all, pharmacies have become a metaphorical conveyor belt and patients have become mere numbers. Large retail corporations condition pharmacists to focus more on the prescription counts and less on accurate dispensing. Although it is impossible to slow down the never-ending rush of a community pharmacy, we can all take a step to advocate for an improved system that provides pharmacists adequate time to do essential functions of their job.

Michael Blyumin, Jay Coloso and Wahib Ead

Student Pharmacists

UCSF School of Pharmacy Class of 2021

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