US Pharm. 2007;1:3.

Over the past several weeks, pharmacists received a mixed bag of news. The first piece of news shouldn't come as any surprise to most pharmacists, because they've heard it before--for the last 18 years, in fact. According to the latest USA Today/Gallup Poll, consumers ranked pharmacists within the top three professions--as they have since 1989.

It's really too bad that some pharmacists don't see themselves in the same light as consumers do. I recently received e-mails from several pharmacists in response to a column I wrote complaining about the "commodization" of prescriptions. The theme that ran through the majority of the e-mails was that it is too late to change consumers' perception of pharmacy, and all they really want is a bargain. What really startled me was that many freely admitted it was their own inactions that contributed to consumers' perception that pharmacists are only selling a product and not their services. Sadly, I have to agree, pharmacists can be their own worst enemies.

That being said, the other piece of news should come as a wake-up call for all pharmacists, even those who have accepted the notion, as one pharmacist put it, of being no better than a deli counter person. While the news itself is not particularly good for consumers, it does present an excellent opportunity for pharmacists.

A survey by Lightspeed Research revealed that medication noncompliance is a big problem in the United States. Medication therapy management, pharmaceutical care, disease state management--or whatever moniker you give it--will eventually lead to healthier patients. That cause and effect will hopefully someday lead to pharmacists being paid for their services. For sure, it won't happen overnight. But if pharmacists continue to perceive themselves as selling a commodity, it will never happen.

Harold E. Cohen, RPh

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