Pharmacists are health professionals who practice the art and science of pharmacy. In their traditional role, pharmacists typically take a request for medicines from a prescribing health care provider in the form of a medical prescription and dispense the medication to the patient and counsel them on the proper use and adverse effects of that medication. In this role, pharmacists ensure the safe and effective use of medications. Pharmacists also participate in disease state management, where they optimize and monitor drug therapy – often in collaboration with physicians and/or other health professionals. Pharmacists have many areas of expertise and are a critical source of medical knowledge in clinics, hospitals, and community pharmacies throughout the world.

Pharmacists are sometimes small-business owners, owning the pharmacy in which they practice. Their specialized knowledge as skilled professionals makes them a vital part of any healthcare team. They act as a learned intermediary between patients and other healthcare providers to ensure that proper medical therapy is chosen and implemented in the best way possible.

Pharmacists are sometimes referred to as chemists (or dispensing chemists), which sometimes causes confusion with scientists in the field of chemistry. This term is a historical one, since pharmacists originally were required to complete an undergraduate degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry (PhC) and were known as "Pharmaceutical Chemists".


Pharmacists are trained in pharmacology, pharmacognosy, chemistry, pharmaceutical chemistry, microbiology, pharmacy practice (including drug interactions, medicine monitoring, medication management), pharmaceutics, pharmacy law, physiology, anatomy, biochemistry, kinetics, nephrology, hepatology, and compounding medications. Additional curriculum covers basic diagnosis with emphasis on disease state management, therapeutics and prescribing (selecting the most appropriate medication for a given patient).

One of the most important roles that pharmacists are currently taking on is one of pharmaceutical care. Pharmaceutical care involves taking direct responsibility for patients and their disease states, medications, and the management of each in order to improve the outcome for each individual patient. Pharmaceutical care has many benefits that include but are not limited to:

  • Decreased medication errors
  • Increased patient compliance in medication regime
  • Better chronic disease state management
  • Strong pharmacist-patient relationship

Pharmacists are often the first point-of-contact for patients with health inquiries. This means that pharmacists have large roles in the assessing medication management in the primary care of patients. These roles may include, but are not limited to:

  • clinical medication management
  • the assessment of patients with undiagnosed or diagnosed conditions and for decisions about the clinical medication management required.
  • specialized monitoring of disease states
  • reviewing medication regimens
  • monitoring of treatment regimens
  • delegating work
  • general health monitoring
  • compounding medicines
  • general health advice
  • providing specific education to patients about disease states and medications
  • oversight of dispensing medicines on prescription
  • provision of non-prescription medicines
  • counseling and advice on optimal use of medicines
  • advice and treatment of common ailments
  • referrals to other health professionals if necessary
  • dosing drugs in renal and hepatic failure
  • pharmacokinetic evaluation
  • education of physicians and other health care providers on medications and their proper use
  • limited prescribing of medications only in collaboration with other health care professionals
  • providing pharmaceutical information
  • promoting public health by administering immunizations

In some states, pharmacists have prescriptive authority to either independently prescribe under their own authority or in collaboration with a primary care physician through an agreed upon protocol.

Qualifications and registration

The requirements of pharmacy education, pharmacist licensure and post-graduate continuing education vary from country to country and between regions/localities within countries. In most countries, prospective pharmacists study pharmacy at a pharmacy school or related institution. Upon graduation, they are licensed either nationally or by region to dispense medication of various types in the settings for which they have been trained.

In the United States, a Pharmacist must complete 4 years of graduate level training at a pharmacy school, usually after receiving a bachlores degree from another undergraduate institution, although some pharmacy schools only require two years of undergraduate education and the completion of a list of prerequisites. Pharmacists receive a PharmD, or Doctorate of Pharmacy, upon graduation, and licensure after passing the NAPLEX. The amount of college education varies but is usually 6-9 years.


Practice specialization

Specialties exist within the pharmacy profession, with the place of occupation being the major differentiator. Specialties include:

Specialty practice accreditation


In Australia, accreditation exists only for certain specialties and is provided by professional bodies for the following:



In Portugal a pharmacist can become certified in recognized professional specialty practice areas by passing an examination administered by the Order of Pharmacists. The Order of Pharmacists certifies pharmacists in four specialties:

United States

In the United States, a pharmacist can become certified in recognized specialty practice areas by passing an examination administered by one of several credentialing boards.


In ancient Japan, the men who fulfilled roles similar to those of modern pharmacists were highly respected. The place of pharmacists in society was settled in the Taihō Code (701) and re-stated in the Yōrō Code (718). Ranked positions in the pre-Heian Imperial court were established; and this organizational structure remained largely intact until the Meiji Restoration (1868). In this highly stable hierarchy, the pharmacists -- and even pharmacist assistants -- were assigned status superior to all others in health-related fields such as physicians and acupuncturists. In the Imperial household, the pharmacist was even ranked above the two personal physicians of the Emperor.

See also

External links


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