Role of the Pharmacist in the Management of Rheumatic Disease


The role of the Pharmacist can vary greatly among different practice settings but ultimately Pharmacists play an important role in providing and supporting pharmaceutical care.   Providing pharmaceutical care includes, but is not limited to, establishing patient relationships, obtaining medication history information, preventing, identifying and resolving medication related problems (MRP), dispensing medications, educating and counseling patients and healthcare providers, monitoring patient and medication effects and ensuring continuity of care for all patients.

Where does the Pharmacist work?

A Pharmacist can work in a variety of settings including a community pharmacy such as an independent or chain drug store; a hospital pharmacy; or an ambulatory care setting such as an outpatient hospital clinic or private medical office. 

In the community pharmacy, the Pharmacist is primarily responsible for counseling patients on new medications, properly filling a medication order that comes from a prescriber, and to be available for questions that may arise from other health care providers or patients.

Pharmacists that work in hospitals can play a role in clarifying orders that are written for a patient, verifying medication orders, preparing and dispensing medications, working with the physicians and nurses providing direct patient care, and may even participate on rounds with physicians to provide suggestions on how to treat a patient.

A Pharmacist that works in the ambulatory care setting can have many different responsibilities and this may vary depending on the type of office or clinic or even the state in which they are practicing.   In this setting the Pharmacist may see patients in the office for educational counseling sessions about new medications, talking with the patient about specific drug questions they may have, or working with the providers to provide drug information about different medication therapies their patients may be using. 

Pharmacists can also work for drug companies as consultants or as researchers. Pharmacists may be involved in teaching student Pharmacists.

What does the Pharmacist do?

Manage Medications

  • Development of medication-use policies
  • Development of patient care services
  • Drug information
  • Development and implementation of clinical care plans and disease state management (ex: treatment protocols and guidelines)
  • Adverse drug reaction monitoring and reporting

Provide Pharmaceutical Care

  • Establish patient relationships
  • Obtain medication history information
  • Dispense medications
  • Prevent, identify and resolve medication related problems (MRP)
  • Educate and counsel patients about their medications
  • Monitor patients and medication effects
  • Contribute to the process to ensure continuity of care for all patients

Drug Distribution and Control

  • Manage medication inventory
  • Ensure proper storage conditions for medications
  • Ensure expired medications are not dispensed to patients

Specific responsibilities to patients with rheumatic diseases

  • Answer questions regarding medications patient may be on, that may or may not be related to rheumatology
  • Prepare infusion medications for administration
  • Review any potential drug interactions with patient medications, and suggest appropriate dosages as needed
  • Formulate letters to insurance companies to campaign for coverage of off label usage of medications
  • Educate patients when starting a new medication regarding information including but not limited to what to expect, side effects, how to administer, and who to contact if they have questions or side effects
  • Maintains updated knowledge and continuing education on new products and studies to help further patient treatment and to support the evidence used during patient education

What kind of training does the Pharmacist have?

Historically, Pharmacists were required to complete a five year pharmacy program that resulted in a Bachelors of Science (B.S.) degree.  Now all Pharmacists must complete at least a six year pharmacy program which results in a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD.) degree.  All Pharmacists must pass a national licensure and meet state specific licensure requirements.  Some Pharmacists pursue additional post graduate training such as a one-two year residencies or fellowships.  The purpose of the additional training is to allow Pharmacists to specialize in certain areas of medicine and make them more marketable in this increasingly competitive career field.


American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. ASHP guidelines: minimum standard for pharmaceutical services in ambulatory care. Am J Health-Syst Pharm. 1999; 56:1744–53.

This information is provided for general education only. Individuals should consult a qualified health care provider for professional medical advice, diagnoses and treatment of a medical or health condition.

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