Truth of the Trade: Pharmacists

T.J. DePaola, president and pharmacist in charge of Cypress Pharmacy in Fort Myers, tells us what pharmacists really focus on.

It’s easy to judge another industry from the outside, with ideas formed by what we see on TV, hear on the news or experience through our friends. But not all stories and stereotypes are true. The best way to debunk myths about an industry? Turning to those who know it best.

The Myth: Pharmacists just count pills.

The Truth: “There is an old joke around pharmacists with the perception that
all we do is count pills, lick the labels, stick them on, and pour the medicine,” T.J. DePaola, president and pharmacist in charge of Cypress Pharmacy in Fort Myers, says. “There’s a lot more to it than that.”

Of top importance: Making sure a patient has the right medication at the right dose. If the prescription is listed or filled wrong, it can harm patients rather than help. “We’re essentially the last line of defense for them,” DePaola says.

Pharmacists also look out for drug interactions based on what else the patient may be taking. “The patient can be on multiple medications, and you have to make sure the drug interactions are minimal so they don’t have an adverse reaction,” DePaola says, adding that, for example, an antibiotic can make birth control less effective. “You have to be on your toes, and there is no break in monitoring this.”

That means if a pharmacist has 600 orders in a day, they’re cross-checking each one for possible drug interactions. “You could, in theory, be going through 2,500 medications on a daily basis,” DePaola says.

T.J. DePaola

While a pharmacist’s ultimate goal is patient care, different pharmacies offer different things. Cypress Pharmacy, for instance, takes more of a clinical approach to address the overall wellness of a patient (it even has a natural health consultant on staff). As an independent pharmacy, Cypress Pharmacy can also customize medication.

“When a drug company makes a medication, there are standardized dosing forms that are not always the appropriate dosage for the patient, so we can actually make a customized prescription for that patient,” DePaola says.

Florida pharmacists who are specially certified can even offer a range of immunization shots. In the future, they may even be able to directly treat patients who test positive onsite for flu and strep, thanks to a proposed bill (HB 389).

“There is a lack of healthcare providers, so lawmakers are looking to expand the pharmacist’s role to take some of the pressure off practitioners,” DePaola says. That way, congested customers can get their flu tests and prescriptions all in one place, letting them skip the doctor’s office completely and spend more time recovering in bed.