Besides dispensing medication, pharmacists in Singapore are trained to provide a range of other services! I'm excited to share with you some which might benefit you, or someone you know.
1. Community diabetes monitoring
Diabetes is huge in Singapore – by huge, I mean that 1 in 3 Singaporeans are likely to be diabetic in their lifetime. Singapore also had the 2nd highest proportion of diabetics in the world in 2015, coming in second to the US of A.
There are many things we want our nation to win in, but let’s not try for first place, please? (don’t be so kiasu, la)
Diabetes requires regular monitoring to make sure the medication is working well, and your diet is not causing your condition to worsen.
What do you do when the queues for a follow-up at your local polyclinic gets in the way of your everyday rhythm? Bring in the pharmacist!
Major retail chain pharmacies like Guardian, Watsons and Unity have in-store pharmacists who offer chronic disease management services. Go ahead and ask them anything, from how your medications work, to monitoring your blood sugar levels and how to store your medication properly!
For $60, you can also receive a monthly testing kit and 8 consultations with pharmacists over a year to ensure you are managing your diabetes in the best way possible. The Diabetes Care programme is a collaboration by Watsons and the pharmacy school at NUS.
Better still, if you are referred to the Diabetes Care programme by a doctor, you can get 10% off (so kiasu)! Individualised advice will be provided during consultations, and is aimed at improve your confidence in managing a lifelong condition like diabetes. Read more about it here.
2. Medication reconciliation (AKA your pharmacist sorts out all your meds for you)
Have you ever looked at all the pills you take everyday and not know what some of them are? But you take them anyway because you are a good patient.
This is especially applicable to seniors in Singapore, who can use 4 or more medications.
Should you (or a grandparent) be on a long list of medication for your health condition, why not visit your local pharmacy with your bag of medication for the pharmacist to go through.
For a small fee, most retail pharmacies offer a medication review service. This ensures that you take only the medication you need, and not those you don’t! Because this exercise may take some time, I recommend that you avoid lunch and evening crowds.
In the heartlands, students from the NUS pharmacy school also often organise "brown-bagging" events, where together with licensed pharmacists, they offer medication review services.
Not convinced that a medication review by your pharmacist is beneficial? Here's the why:
- Medical records today are mostly electronic, but not all of them are shared between physicians. Hence, people who clinic-hop can tend to accumulate months and even years, worth of supply of medicines at home.
- Clinics and hospitals may sell the same medication, but in a different packaging and form, or several similar medicines under the same "family of medicines". If used for treating long-standing illnesses such as our usual suspects of diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, not receiving appropriate medication is detrimental and harmful!
After the reconciliation exercise, you can request for the pharmacist to write down her recommendations, and a medication list for you to bring to your doctor on your next visit.
A personal medication list also helps reduce stress when you change family physicians, or visit another healthcare institution.
3. Smoking cessation
We all have that one friend or relative who sets a new year resolution each year to quit smoking, but never actually quite comes round to doing it.
Cigarettes contain many compounds, of which nicotine is what makes it so hard to quit. Because it's an addictive drug, your brain and body start craving nicotine when you stop smoking or smoke less than you usually do.
One can only smoke more cigarettes to get happier, never less!
Going "cold turkey" may only work if you have mental determination of steel, and the ability to keep your hands busy. But fret not, expert help is never far away!
Most pharmacies in public hospitals, polyclinics and retail chain stores offer smoking cessation services that can help you quit successfully. These services typically involve:
- Assessment of your smoking history - so we can gauge your level of addiction
- Carbon monoxide monitoring - this nasty compound which reduces the amount of oxygen our blood can carry is present in cigarette smoke!
- Creating a personal plan for quitting - you know cold turkey doesn’t always work swimmingly, right?
- Advice on medications to help the quitting process - including the use of nicotine replacement, among others
Pharmacists who are trained and certified Quit Smoking Consultants will monitor your progress over several visits, and make the necessary recommendations to help you achieve your goal of becoming smoke-free!
Hopefully the information here is useful to share with friends and family. And remember, if you're ever confused about your medications, don’t hesitate to speak to your pharmacist!