Healthcare often involves many ethical issues and challenges, and the pharmaceutical industry is no exception. Pharmacists are responsible for distributing medications that have been prescribed by doctors to patients in the most ethical manner. Pharmacists must also often make important decisions that affect patients’ lives while trying to adhere to the moral principles that govern this healthcare sector.
Ensuring proper medication use
An ethical pharmacist always follows the proper protocol to make sure that each patient has a clear understanding of how each medication is supposed to be used. If a pharmacist only gives out the medication without taking the time to give a patient the proper instructions, the medicine may be used in a way that is ineffective or potentially dangerous.
When a prescription is being prepared, the pharmacist should print a prescription label that displays clear instructions for how the medication should be taken. A pharmacist who practices good ethics should also provide additional information that the doctor may have not relayed to the patient about the medicine.
Ethical pharmacists also take the time to consult with patients who are using new medications. During the consultation, the pharmacist can give the patient detailed verbal instructions along with additional literature that explains how the medication should be used and its possible side effects.
Pharmacists also have the ethical obligation to prevent illicit drug use. Certain prescription medicines, such as painkillers, can become addictive and are sometimes used for recreational purposes. To try to curb the problem of prescription medication abuse, pharmacists should never give out more medicine than what the doctor prescribes or exceed the allowable refill amounts, even if a patient requests otherwise.
Aspiring pharmacists can learn more about the steps that pharmacies take to ensure ethical medication distribution and use by enrolling in a Pharmd online degree program that prepares students to enter this field.
Understanding the legality of certain medications
Some prescription medications are legal in certain places while being illegal in other locations, and the rules that allow or prohibit certain medicines often vary from country to country. There are also medicines that are available over the counter in certain locations but require prescriptions in others. Pharmacists have the ethical duty to learn which medicines are lawfully allowed or prohibited in their given areas so that nothing is prescribed that could land the pharmacy in legal trouble.
Protecting patient confidentiality
Safeguarding each patient’s personal information is another ethical principle that pharmacists must follow so that trust between patients and their pharmacies isn’t violated. If a patient’s confidential information is compromised, personal details about the person’s health condition or medication use could be revealed on a wide scale.
To protect this data, special software is used to store the information virtually. Pharmacists need to take additional precautions to keep the information systems that store the data from being hacked. Special precautions must also be taken to prevent passwords from being shared accidentally with hackers or other morally corrupt individuals who may try to use patients’ confidential data for malicious purposes.
Pharmacists also often face the challenge of protecting confidential patient information without blocking access to data that could impact a patient’s care. Pharmacists must use ethical judgment and follow laws when deciding to reveal certain information that may be requested by medical providers.
If the confidential information is possibly linked to a crime, pharmacists should know when they are required to release the data to law enforcement and the ethical standards that are involved in making the decision to disclose the details.
Trying to respect patients’ wishes
A patient might make the argument that they have the right to use a prescription medication based on the principle of bodily autonomy even if the medicine might be unsafe or unnecessary. To address this, pharmacists must follow ethical standards while trying to be considerate of patients’ wishes. A pharmacist can also consult with the doctor about any medications that are in question to try to come to a solution that satisfies the patient without violating laws or moral principles.
Addressing high medication costs
The prices of many prescription medications have increased dramatically over the years, and some of these medicines are no longer affordable to people who need them.
To address the skyrocketing prescription costs, pharmacists and drug manufacturers often try to work together to lower medication prices. Since drug companies are for-profit businesses, pharmacists and other industry professionals need to try to ensure that pharmaceutical manufacturers are still able to cover their operating costs and earn profits when plans to lower medication costs are proposed.
Many pharmacists also realize the importance of making medications affordable to people of all economic, racial, and other socioeconomic backgrounds. To try to ensure that everyone has access to affordable medications regardless of their income or additional hardships, many pharmacies have joined networks that offer prescription medication discounts even to the uninsured.
Addressing medication shortages
Pharmacists are sometimes forced to use ethical reasoning to ration medications that are in short supply. Medication and other healthcare service rationing have become especially problematic since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Decisions about who receives these rationed medications should be based on the seriousness of each individual’s medical condition and other healthcare needs without limiting access to medications because of a person’s race, economic background, or place of residency.
During times of medication rationing, pharmacists may also try to find medicines that work similarly to the medications that are in short supply so that patients can still receive at least some form of treatment that will improve or help them manage their medical conditions while benefiting their lives. The most responsible pharmacists consult closely with doctors to verify that any recommended substitute medications are safe.
Upholding ethical standards
Pharmacists must do more in their jobs than simply give medications that doctors prescribe to patients. The most ethical pharmacists also know how to make sound decisions when they face ethical challenges and always strive to act in each patient’s best interest while following the law.