Here's a typical scene: While enduring severe heartburn, shoppers belly up to the stomach care section of the HBC aisle. They are confronted by a dizzying array of products in various sizes and doses. All promise relief. What to choose? Is the latest Rx-to-OTC switch remedy too potent? What about the traditional brands of lesser strength? Are they strong enough?
Enter the in-store pharmacist nearby, with advice and recommendations.
These dedicated professionals are very important to this category, according to Maria Brous, a spokeswoman for Publix Super Markets, Lakeland, Fla. “Consumers come to the shelf and are overwhelmed by the number of products available to them. We educate our pharmacists on product attributes so they can help consumers make informed decisions,” she said.
Ken Henjum, vice president of pharmacy operations for the PrairieStone Pharmacy, Minneapolis, which operates pharmacies in Lunds and Byerly's supermarkets, explained that pharmacists play an important role in the long-term health and welfare of consumers. During interactions with consumers, a pharmacist asks about the patient's medications, reviews the patient's prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs, and also asks about foods or drugs the patient may be taking that could trigger their heartburn symptoms.
“Explaining how each treatment works differently, and what to expect as it pertains to antacids and histamine blockers, is an area of a pharmacist's expertise,” he said. “Simple heartburn as opposed to severe heartburn — especially if it involves acid reflux — is very important.”
Counseling is very important when considering product “switches,” according to Pam Heath, director of pharmacy at Sweetbay Supermarkets in Tampa, Fla. Say, for example, the product had been covered under a prescription plan, but now has gone over-the-counter.
“Not only do they have to help patients locate the product, but other folks are coming in with a prescription for Zantac 150,” she said. “The pharmacist is saying, ‘Oh, by the way, that's over-the-counter now. It's not covered by your insurance. Let's talk about it.’
“It's created a lot of questions among the consumers, but has also initiated more touch points for the pharmacists, often just due to the lag time of patients being aware of a product being over-the-counter,” Heath explained. “If it's written on a piece of paper, often a consumer assumes it's a prescription.”