SINGAPORE - Pharmacists will have to do more in future, given Singapore's ageing population coupled with high prevalence of chronic diseases, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong.
Addressing the 211 new pharmacists who took the pledge to become full fledged professionals Wednesday night, he said: "The role of pharmacists will need to be expanded in the hospitals, polyclinics, and in the community setting."
He added: "Community pharmacists have to work with medical practitioners and other healthcare providers to care for patients with chronic diseases, optimising medication therapy management and achieving good patient outcomes."
Almost 500 of the more than 2,500 pharmacists work in the community, such as at retail pharmacies.
He said as "medication experts", they can be effective advocates of healthy living and disease prevention.
Mr Gan told The Straits Times: "With the ageing population and increasing prevalence of chronic diseases, we need to do more to help our public and patients stay as healthy as possible and avoid needless hospital admissions."
Many older patients with multiple problems might see different doctors. This could result in duplication of medicines or even medicines that might affect the efficacy of other drugs.
Pharmacists can help review their medication to ensure that they are all necessary and there is no interaction or overlap.
He said "pharmacists-run ambulatory clinics" can educate patients and "ensure better outcomes from safe and proper use of medications".
Patients with multiple problems may have more than a dozen pills they need to take at different times of the day. Some, especially older patients living alone, may have difficulty remembering what to take when.
Mr Gan added that pharmacists in team-based community outreach programmes visit patients at home to teach them how to manage their various medicines and ensuring that they take them as prescribed, thus preventing their need to be hospitalised for medication-related problems.