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How to get the most wellness benefits at your pharmacy

Pharmacies aren't just for filling prescriptions. Here's how to use your local pharmacist as a health resource.
October is American Pharmacists Month. Here's how to use your local pharmacist as a health resource. Photo: ISTOCK

Doctors’ offices are no longer the only places Americans are seeking health care. Consumers are now able to get immunizations and treatments for minor wounds and common ailments like strep throat at their drugstore, and pharmacists are often-untapped resources. October is American Pharmacists month, so Metro asked Dr. William Stratis, director of pharmacy services at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary at Mount Sinai, to share some medication safety tips as well as the pharmacist’s place on a patient’s care team.

What can consumers go to pharmacists for besides having a prescription filled?

Pharmacists today try to look at more of the total health of the patient versus years ago when they would say, “I want prescription A, three pills.” “OK, here’s prescription A, three pills.” They’re trained to be more aware of symptoms – they’re huge educational jewels. We invite patients to get us involved so we can also bridge the gap between the other healthcare professionals. 

How can patients best use pharmacists as a resource?

If you have one trusted pharmacy, go over the records with the pharmacist so their records are equal to yours and vice versa. This way, if you ever have to go to a doctor or hospital, you can have your active list, and this is something that you would update while you’re cleaning out your medication cabinet.

How should medication be stored safely?

You have to keep your medications in an area that’s secure from children and pets. Many of our houses have medication cabinets in our bathrooms and they don’t have a lock and it’s probably one of the worst areas keep medications because any degree of dampness and humidity can affect the potency of [an open bottle of] medication. So probably a good idea to have another area in a dry location that’s well-lit. 

How often should we purge our medicine cabinets? 

 I would suggest either twice a year — kind of like when you change the battery on your smoke detector — or if you are not taking the medication anymore or there’s no need for that medication, you should get rid of it. Having excessive medications around only increases the possibility of adverse or drug-drug interactions.

What’s the best way to get rid of expired medication?

Locate a pharmacy near you that has collection receptacles. Or find a police station, a fire department that holds “take-back” programs. Some organizations have mail-back programs where they may send you either free envelopes or, for a minor fee, they’ll take your medication back for you. Add water, ashes, dirt, coffee grounds, cat litter, or any wet substance to any expired medications or any medications that you’re not using. Put them in some sort of plastic container and put tape over it. The last guidance, which on the one hand is counterintuitive but it’s still a recommendation: If all else fails, flush it down your toilet.

The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai is holding a patient-education event at its North building, 310 E. 14th St., on Wednesday, Oct. 17 and Thursday, Oct. 18 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Staff will be on hand to answer questions; there will also be material provided by the Poison Control Center on poison-proofing your home and protecting your medication.