National Pharmacist Day, celebrated annually on January 12, honors pharmacists across different specialties and in every setting by recognizing the impact they have in healthcare. There were approximately 316,500 pharmacists in the United States as of the most recent census, many of whom have been vital to the public’s health and wellbeing — long before the ongoing pandemic.
Pharmacists are a vital part of healthcare teams and often rank among the most trusted professions, with survey respondents rating the honesty and ethical standards of pharmacists as “high” or “very high.” Pharmacists not only check and dispense medications for patients; they also offer advice on medicine dosage, side effects, and possible interactions between different prescriptions. They know about drug therapy effectiveness and can provide information about medical devices patients use at home. Through managing complex drug regimens, counseling to ensure patients remain adherent, helping navigate insurance and cost concerns, and much more, pharmacists have an irreplaceable role in everyone’s healthcare.
The role of pharmacists during the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to be at the frontline of healthcare. Pharmacists are often among the more accessible healthcare professionals for their community, care for patients with chronic illness, and may provide reliable information for preventing, detecting, treating and managing coronavirus infections. Many pharmacists’ duties have expanded to include providing COVID screenings and/or vaccinations.
Pharmacists have had to respond to patients who request treatment/prevention based on misinformation such as hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, and been the target of harassment and threats from anti-vaccine or COVID-denying proponents. Just as doctors and nurses have burned out from COVID-19, facing staffing shortages, full emergency rooms and COVID exposures — pharmacists have faced challenges that are likely to be overlooked. These difficulties not only affect frontline healthcare workers, but also patients. Longer wait times and fewer resources can lead to doctors accepting alternative treatments for their patients, and stressors can lead to errors made when filling prescriptions.
For those unable to afford their medications, NeedyMeds has a database of Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs), as well as information on Coupons and Rebates that can help lower the cost of necessary medications. The free NeedyMeds Drug Discount Card can be used by anyone to help save money on their prescribed medication — even over-the-counter medicine if prescribed by a doctor. The card is available physically via mail, in a printable form, or as a smartphone app for Apple and Android devices. The NeedyMeds website also has a database of over 100 nationwide resources for those who have been impacted by COVID-19. There are even listings for over 18,000 free, low-cost, or sliding scale clinics for those concerned about the costs of healthcare. Search your ZIP code for clinics in your area to find free or low-cost medical attention. Remember to call first if you are seeking information about the availability of COVID-19 testing/vaccination. For more help finding information, call our toll-free helpline Monday-Friday 9am-5pm Eastern Time at 1-800-503-6897.