What is a Pharmacist?

A community pharmacist dispenses and educates patients about their medicines. A pharmacist ensures the quality use of medicines by; explaining how you should take/use your medicine, ensuring the correct dose of your medicine has been prescribed and dispensed, explaining how to store your medicine, informing you of the potential adverse effects and checking that your medicines are safe to take together. Pharmacists also work in hospitals and many other organisations in various roles. Sometimes your doctor might ask for a pharmacist to come and visit you in your home for a Home Medicines Review. This is a review of your medicines done by the pharmacist in collaboration with your doctor.

How are pharmacists trained?

Pharmacy degrees can be obtained from one of the many university courses available in Australia. This can take up to six years. Candidates must then pass the Pharmacy Board of Australia registration requirements. Finally, candidates need to complete an internship under the direction of a registered pharmacist to become qualified to practice pharmacy.

Once registered, pharmacists are required to continue their professional education through periodic refresher courses as required by the Pharmacy Board of Australia.

Pharmacists who provide medication reviews as described above are required to become accredited which involves doing an extra course through a recognised provider for eg Australian Association of Consultant Pharmacists or the Society of Hospital Pharmacists, Australia.

What services do pharmacists offer?

  • Prepare or supervise the dispensing of medicines, ointments and tablets
  • Advise patients on how their medicines are to be taken or used in the safest and most effective way in the treatment of common ailments
  • Advise members of the public and other health professionals about medicines (both prescription and over-the-counter medicines), including appropriate selection, dosage and drug interactions, potential side effects and therapeutic effects
  • Perform Home Medication Reviews
  • Provide general health advice when you cannot get into your doctor
  • Some (but not all) pharmacies dispose of sharps containers

When should I see a pharmacist?

Most people with rheumatic diseases will be on medicines for their disease. Therefore, you will see a pharmacist regularly to have your medicines dispensed. It is advisable to use only one pharmacy (where possible).

How may I find a pharmacist who has a specialist interest in rheumatology conditions?

Most community pharmacists will have several patients with rheumatic diseases. Pharmacists do not generally specialise in rheumatology but must be familiar with all medicines. Some hospital pharmacists may have an interest in rheumatology.


Further information

Pharmaceutical Society of Australia

Society of Hospital Pharmacists Australia

Australian Association of Consultant Pharmacists