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What Is a Pharmacy?


A pharmacy is commonly known as a retail store that dispenses FDA approved prescription medications as well as over the counter remedies that do not require a physician’s prescription. There are many types of pharmacies across the country including community (retail) pharmacies, mail order pharmacies, compounding pharmacies, hospital pharmacies, clinical pharmacies, ambulatory care pharmacies, and regulator pharmacies.

Most people are familiar with their local community retail pharmacy. Along with selling prescription drugs, these retail pharmacies also sell a large variety of over-the-counter remedies like cough medication, pain relievers, make-up, grooming and hygiene supplies, greeting cards, as well as many seasonal items like Halloween and holiday candy.

outside of pharmacy building

What is a Pharmacy?

These pharmacies employ licensed pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to fill prescriptions and promote the safe and effective use of medications.

Pharmacists provide advice on over-the-counter remedies and are an important resource for consultation on medication side effects and conditions. Pharmacists however cannot write prescriptions or dispense FDA approved medications without a prescription.

Specialty pharmacies fill prescriptions to treat patients with complex, serious, and rare diseases that require a greater amount of care and management. Some of these diseases include cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, Cystic Fibrosis, HIV/AIDS, and other disorders. Many of the medications these patients need are provided as injectable drugs which may require a greater degree of patient care and monitoring.  According to the Drug Channels Institute, specialty pharmacy drugs will represent 44% of the U.S. drug spend by 2020.

If you have special medication needs that a community pharmacy cannot handle, you may be directed to a compounding pharmacy. Compounding pharmacies prepare medication in new forms that might not be available otherwise. This may include combining different medications into powders or solutions for better administration for certain patients.


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