Poison centers and pharmacies: A natural partnership

How can pharmacists and pharmacies benefit from the poison center? How can pharmacies play a role in promoting the poison center?

As a pharmacy student intern, I conducted an awareness survey on behalf of the Northern New England Poison Center of all the pharmacies in the state of Vermont. According to the data I collected, a surprisingly large number of pharmacists have not referred a client to the poison center or educated patients about the poison center.  In addition, some pharmacies do not have a pharmacist on duty after normal business hours to answer questions regarding medication-related issues. This is where the poison center can step in and help fill in the gaps.

“It would be a great idea for pharmacies to be involved with the poison center,” said Ken Segreto, PharmD, one of the pharmicists I spoke to during my awareness campaign.  “We can increase accessibility to our patients. Our job is to be a resource and educate. A lot of pharmacists would like to have some sort of involvement with having patients be aware.”

Ken brings up a good point: pharmacies are an important resource and if they are able to spread awareness and promote the poison center during all hours of the day, the poison center would be used in appropriate situations. Many patients instinctively dial 911 for matters that could be handled by the poison center.

Poison exposures can happen to anyone and at anytime. However, a majority of the pharmacies around the nation are not open 24 hours for patient consultation or information on poisoning. Of poisonings that are called into the poison center, more than 70 percent are managed over the phone, which saves the caller a trip to the hospital or their primary health care provider. The poison center has physicians, pharmacists, nurses and other providers who are experts in poison information and toxicology taking these calls. This service is used by our entire community, from mothers at home to doctors at health care facilities.

Every pharmacy can benefit from this program by directing their patients to a reliable resource, especially outside the pharmacy’s regular hours. Not only is the poison center free and accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but it also offers interpretation into more than 150 languages and services for the hearing-impaired (TTY) to customize every patient’s call to better serve their needs.

Guest blogger Sarah Im is a pharmacy student at the Albany College of Pharmacy. She recently interned in the NNEPC’s Vermont education office.

Are you a pharmacist or other health care professional? Consider signing up for HRSA’s Poison 101 Webinar course. CEUs are available through September 28.


This entry was posted in Medication Safety, Poison Prevention. Bookmark the permalink.