What You Think You Knew About Pharmacists

by Jeremy Winograd on October 16, 2017

what you know about pharmacistsDespite the fact that Americans consistently rank them among the most trusted professions, there are still many misconceptions about pharmacists that have proven remarkably and frustratingly resilient. Even when millions of people around the country rely on pharmacists daily to fill their prescriptions, counsel them, and so much more, it seems as though only a relatively small percentage of those folks truly understand what those pharmacists are there for. Imagine if most Americans thought their grocery store cashiers spent their breaks slaughtering goats in the breakfast aisle – that’s almost the level of ignorance some pharmacists must deal with. So, in honor of Pharmacy Week, let us once and for all dispel a few of the most prevalent industry myths so that maybe pharmacists can start getting the full level of credit and respect they deserve. Make sure you read the whole post, as there is a special suprise for our avid readers!

Myth 1: Pharmacists Are Just Failed Doctors

The notion that pharmacists are all just wannabe doctors who couldn’t cut it in med school—one that similarly plagues dentists, nurses, and that one obnoxious fabulist at work who likes to brag about how he got into Harvard Medical School but decided not to go because he was just so passionate about accounting—is a heinously incorrect one. That’s because every single practicing pharmacist in the United States is a doctor. That’s right – ever since the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education updated its standards in 2000, aspiring pharmacists are required to complete a four-year Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree. So no, your pharmacist does not have an associate’s degree from an online community college. They’ve endured more mind-numbing lectures, exacting tests, and nerve-frying practical assessments than laypeople could possibly comprehend to get where they are now.

Myth 2: All Pharmacists Do is “Lick, Stick, Fill, Pour”

But why, some might wonder, do pharmacists need doctorates if all they do is sit around all day waiting to drop a few pills into a bottle? Well, that is a grossly limited view of the pharmacist’s role in medicine and society as a whole. In reality, the number of avenues open to pharmacists beyond filling prescriptions at Wal-Mart—many of them highly intensive and extremely vital in the medical field—is staggering. For instance, many pharmacists work in hospitals, poison centers, and even veterinary settings, collaborating closely with doctors on patient care. Some work for pharmaceutical companies on the development of new medicines, while others help regulatory agencies ensure those medicines are safe, effective, and properly labeled. Some may choose an academic path, conducting research and educating the next generation of pharmacists. And that’s just a sampling. In short, pharmacists are everywhere.

Myth 3: Pharmacists Are Glorified Drug Salespeople

There are, of course, pharmacists who decide some of those more exotic career paths aren’t for them and choose to work in community pharmacy, whether for small mom and pop shops or giant companies like CVS. For them, another stereotype often rears its head – namely, that they are just automaton-like middlemen carrying out Big Pharma’s dastardly plans to take all your money. But there is a lot more going on behind the counter. Community pharmacists are also keeping an eye on your dosage levels, potentially dangerous drug interactions, and other factors that the doctor who wrote your prescription might not have anticipated or just plain screwed up. Pharmacists can also be an invaluable source of guidance, providing everything from tips about the best over the counter products to take for minor ailments to in-depth counseling about managing drug regimens for serious chronic conditions. Basically, it’s a pharmacist’s job to know a lot about what drugs do – not just how much they cost. So next time you pick up your prescription and your pharmacist asks you if you have any questions, they’re not just trying to upsell you. They might just have some wisdom to impart that could have a dramatic impact on your health.

Myth 4: Pharmacists Are All Weird Old Guys Behind a Counter

Media representations of pharmacists aren’t generally too kind, from Family Guy’s perpetually whining Mort Goldman to this old dingbat. These portrayals have colored public perception to some degree, creating an image of a geriatric fellow tottering around behind the druggist’s counter squinting in vain at prescription orders that has come to represent all pharmacists in many people’s minds. But in reality, that trope doesn’t come close to capturing the pharmacy profession’s actual demographics. For one thing, over half of pharmacists in the U.S. are women, according to one 2014 study. Plus, with unprecedented numbers of graduates emerging from pharmacy schools around the country, the workforce will only skew younger and younger in the coming years. And while there’s still work to be done on ethnic diversity, that’s slowly improving too. The fact is, it’s much harder to spot a pharmacist on the street as some might think.


What are some other myths about pharmacists that you’ve heard, or what is your favorite myth to debunk? Share with us in the comments below by Friday, October 27, 2017 for your chance to win one of two $50 giftcards.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Yolanda Wong October 16, 2017 at 1:51 pm

Myth to debunk:
Phatmacists take all the samples that drug reps leave for patients!
Many people don’t realize that it is illegal to distribute samples to pharmacists !

Mahi Varma October 16, 2017 at 1:53 pm

I constantly get asked if I am a real doctor and actually know about diseases or just get online training on medications and Pharmacy and just work as pharmacist.

Christalle Ford October 16, 2017 at 2:02 pm

Pharmacists cannot completely take the place a your doctor. We cannot diagnose and treat every ailment. Some things actually require antibiotics and cannot be treated with over the counter medications. We appreciate that you trust us, but a visit to urgent care or the ER may be needed.

Janice Tarvin October 16, 2017 at 10:02 pm

Pharmacists do not have control over what the insurance states is the copay.

Liz October 16, 2017 at 11:14 pm

Myth to debunk: Every pharmacist works retail. I’ve worked managed care and specialty before and very few people understand that there are other roles outside of retail pharmacy.

Ash October 17, 2017 at 6:11 am

Pharmacist can not repeat can not write you a prescription for your broke finger or anything that is serious wrong with you!

Sarah October 17, 2017 at 8:01 am

Myth: As long as you have a prescription for a medication, a pharmacist can fill it.

Consuelo October 18, 2017 at 8:41 pm

It’s ok to stop taking your medicine once you start filling better and don’t have to finish or continue taking meds is what alot if patients tend to believe.

Consuelo October 18, 2017 at 8:43 pm

I meant feeling better.

Grace Sit October 18, 2017 at 9:32 pm

Pharmacist makes too much for just counting pills per an orthodontist that jacked up his quote for braces.

Fahima usufzy October 19, 2017 at 6:11 pm

Consequently, pharmacists are uniquely positioned to help Californians with their health care needs.

However, throughout our state, these valuable pharmacists are being vastly underutilized. While we have taken steps to maximize the role of pharmacists, we have not facilitated a model to realize this potential.

Sue Luke October 22, 2017 at 2:37 pm

A fun “myth” that I observed one day at work, was when a young man came in to refill his prescription. Once ready, he was puzzled to hear what his co-pay was. He innocently and earnestly asked, “But aren’t refills free”? My technician assured him that unlike a soda pop refill, his prescription was not free. 🙂

Rachel Evans October 28, 2017 at 9:28 am

Don’t you just love it when you are working your tail off as the PIC in a grocery store pharmacy and your store manager tells you “I can’t believe you get paid that much just to count pills”?

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