When I worked in retail pharmacies, one of the most common questions I had was, “What side effects will this drug cause?”

I remember some of my customers, especially the funny ones or those who gifted me with tokens like flowers, handmade jewelry, or pickled herring, which I craved during my pregnancy in 1993. I had a good relationship with all of my patients.

I used to work 14-hour shifts, day after day, back in the ’90s and 2000s. I “floated” all around central Florida whenever a pharmacist called off. The pharmacy would be closed, and I was the pharmacist called upon to go open it.

I thrived in this position, basically walking into a mess and catching the store up, making all the customers suddenly happy.

But there’s a ton of mental chatter to reconcile in our brain when we are not sure that you need what the doctor prescribed, or if there’s a natural vitamin for that, or we realize the side effects will be far worse for you than your condition itself. We are never sure if we should say it out loud.

People trust us. Americans have deemed us to be among the most honest professions, maintaining the highest ethical standards. That’s why pharmacists have been rated in the top two “most trusted professionals in the United States” yet again (Gallup survey).


1. Keep you safe. As medication experts, we reduce risk of miserable side effects. Occasionally, one drug is intended, but another drug is prescribed by accident. Maybe Zyrtec for Zantac, Actos for Actonel, or Neurontin for Noroxin. Your pharmacist should catch these errors.

2. Are accessible and fast. Pharmacists are always on duty if a pharmacy is open. You don’t have to make appointments weeks in advance to get advice.

3. Are intelligent. If you have a skin rash from poison ivy or a bee sting, your pharmacist can suggest an over-the-counter remedy; if you are constipated or have the flu, we’ve got your back.

4. Aren’t paid off. Pharmacists work for you, not the pharmaceutical companies that probably sent a drug rep over to your doctor’s office with delicious meals, trinkets, and trips. This colors the decision-making process of some (not all) physicians.

5. Can save you money. The pharmacy technician expertly runs your prescription through your insurance company online; they’ll check the cash price against your insurance co-pay in case it’s lower. Some will phone your insurance company to authorize cheaper alternatives.

6. Know about food, too. They’ll suggest you avoid grapefruit if you take statins or avoid MSG when taking sedatives. Bananas are constipating—you should avoid those with hydrocodone but eat them with some diuretics like HCTZ. Tips like this are worth their weight in gold.

Your pharmacist may be high up and partially hidden behind glass (that’s for security reasons—they are in charge of millions of dollars of drugs!), but I highly recommend that you develop a relationship with your local pharmacist. We are on your side.


This information is not intended to diagnose, prevent, or treat your disease. For more information about the author, visit SuzyCohen.com

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