Some Medications Scare Me- A Pharmacist’s Confessions

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“Dear Pharmacist,

I just became a pharmacist and started reading your syndicated column. Your emphasis is usually centered around the benefits of vitamins, minerals or alternative treatments, as compared to prescription medications.  I take offense sometimes because I think you should recommend more of our gold standard pharmaceuticals which are FDA approved, unlike nutritional supplements. For example, I read your article about depression and you only discussed vitamins and minerals, and never mentioned prescribed antidepressants.”
–JK, Gainesville, Florida

Dear JK,

Congratulations on your recent achievement of becoming a pharmacist! Your role is pivotal in helping patients navigate both traditional pharmaceuticals and alternative treatments. It’s great to see you engaging critically with different perspectives in the field.

I understand your concerns regarding the emphasis on vitamins and minerals over FDA-approved pharmaceuticals. It’s crucial, however, to recognize the diversity in patient preferences and medical needs. Some individuals seek natural remedies due to sensitivities to pharmaceuticals or personal preferences for non-drug interventions. As healthcare professionals, our goal is to support our patients with a broad spectrum of knowledge and options.

Regarding the treatment of depression, it’s true that traditional antidepressants play a critical role and are indispensable for many. They are rigorously tested and approved for safety and efficacy by the FDA. However, research also supports the use of certain vitamins and minerals in alleviating depression symptoms. For example, low levels of folic acid, vitamin B12, and magnesium have been linked to depression, and addressing these deficiencies can be part of a comprehensive treatment plan.

It’s important to balance this discussion by acknowledging the side effects associated with both natural supplements and prescription medications. While supplements generally have fewer and milder side effects, they are not without risk and are less regulated than prescription drugs. Conversely, while pharmaceuticals are effective and necessary, they can also present significant side effects, which must be managed carefully.

As a pharmacist, you are uniquely positioned to educate your customers on these options. Engaging with both pharmaceuticals and natural remedies will enable you to provide holistic care and informed recommendations tailored to individual needs.

Lastly, here are some updated sections to consider for further reading or inclusion in educational materials at your pharmacy:

  1. Understanding Dietary Supplements: Explore the roles, benefits, and risks of supplements in managing various health conditions.
  2. Pharmacogenomics: How genetic testing can guide effective medication choices and minimize side effects in treatments, including depression.
  3. The Gut-Brain Connection: Investigate how gut health impacts mental health and how dietary changes can improve both mental and physical well-being.

Your dedication to learning and questioning is commendable, and it’s exactly what the field of pharmacy needs to advance and adapt to the changing healthcare landscape. Keep up the great work!