9 questions you’ve always wanted to ask a pharmacist

Will the morning after pill cause defects if I fall pregnant later in life?

  • 9 questions with a Sydney pharmacist who boasts ten years experience and a Bachelor of Pharmacy at Sydney University (4 years).
  • Break-down of the jobs in the industry for graduates.
  • Video on how to launch yourself into a career developing new drugs

What’s does the morning after pill do and not do?

The emergency contraceptive pill (morning-after pill) contains a hormone called levonorgestrel.

It’s used to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex, though it doesn’t prevent implantation of a fertilised egg and, if taken after implantation, has no effect on an existing pregnancy. So, basically, it’s not the same as a medicine called mifepristone or RU-486, which was recently approved for medical abortion in Australia.

Can you administer it to a male on a female’s behalf? Or what about a female under 16?

Australian common law states that a person has to be 16 years or older to consent to medical treatment. And no, we can’t hand it out to males that are coming in on your behalf. It’s to protect the girl and her ‘choice’.

What is the timeframe for use [between unprotected sex and taking the pill]?

The pill shouldn’t be supplied if unprotected sex had occurred longer than three days ago.

If a woman had unprotected sex outside of this timeframe, a pharmacist can still supply the emergency contraceptive pill. This supply is called “off label” as it is outside of the TGA-licensed use. In such cases, pharmacists should inform women about the effectiveness of this emergency contraception beyond three days and document that they supplied it. (Or they could recommend the woman have an intrauterine device (IUD) placed instead. This IUD is the most effective form of emergency contraception and can be inserted up to five days after unprotected sex.) 

Will taking the morning after pill cause defects when I fall pregnant later in life?

No!! Just like regular birth control, emergency contraception use won’t affect a woman’s future ability to get pregnant, neither will emergency birth control.

Why are some medicines to be taken with food, while others must be taken on an empty stomach? Does it matter?

Yes, absolutely! Most people just think that you eat food so that you do not get that, “I am going to be sick” feeling… but this is only one part of the reason.

Some drugs need the stomach to be empty when taken as the presence of food can reduce their activity or may actually stop the drug working but some drugs need food in the stomach to allow the drug to be absorbed into the blood stream better.

Why does it take so long for a pharmacy to hand over my medicine once I’ve given them my prescription?

Pharmacy staff do much more than simply stick a label on a box before giving it to you. They’ll check to make sure it’s safe and appropriate for you, where possible checking it’s compatibility with any other medicines you take or conditions you suffer from.

We also try to make sure that more than one person makes up and checks your prescription to reduce the chances of any errors happening, it may take a few minutes for someone to finish what they’re already doing before a final check can take place. As calm as a pharmacy dispensary may look, there is loads going on on the background so please bear with us if your prescription takes a little longer than normal!

Why does medicine go off?

If you find an old batch of medicine in your cupboard, you should never take it. There is no way of knowing that it has been stored in the correct conditions. Hot or cold extremities, or being left in direct sunlight or in very humid conditions can all cause medicines to stop working as they should, even if they’re still in date and look as good as new.

Why do I have to show my ID for cold and flu tablets?

Peudoephedrine is found in a number of cold-and-flu tablets, and is known to be an “illicit drug precursor”.

Basically – it can be used to make amphetamine-type substances. These substances stimulate the central nervous system by increasing synaptic concentrations of three major neurotransmitters in the brain – dopamine, serotonin (5-HT) and noradrenaline.

Mandatory recording of identification details helps police keep track of potential “pseudo-runners” – people who shop for cold-and-flu tablets at many different pharmacies for illicit purposes.

Can I collect script medicine from a pharmacy for someone else?

Yes, you can always collect medicine for someone else. You’ll need to have their medicare card though.

What’s the worst / best thing about being a pharmacist? 

I love the variety of the job; no two days, no two conversations even, with patients are ever the same. It keeps things very interesting! The worst bit BY FAR is when someone will come in without a script asking for particular drugs.

Our Footnotes:

What jobs do people do in the pharmaceutical industry?

In 2008 there were 8,771 people employed in the industry.

  • The vast majority (more than half) work in pharmaceutical sales or marketing.
  • Nearly 1/5 were employed in support functions comprising human resources, information technology, quality assurance, administration and warehouse/ distribution.
  • Over 1000 people were employed in manufacturing/engineering.
  • Another twelve hundred were employed either in regulatory and medical areas or R&D roles.

What’s a pharmaceutical sales rep?

The pharmaceuticals industry is major employer of a highly skilled, mostly science- educated workforce. Pharmaceutical sales representatives require significant levels of scientific training and are tasked on a daily basis to meet with healthcare professionals to share and discuss new scientific evidence regarding their products. They are expected to answer highly technical questions posed by health professionals across the country.

75% of people in the Australian industry have a Bachelor’s degree minimum (14% have a Masters) 5% have a Phd.

Do you want a career discovering new drugs?

Inside UTS Sydney labs with Medicinal Chemistry student Camilla
9 questions you’ve always wanted to ask a pharmacist
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