Providing Medical Advice

Posted on 07.15.2015

As a pharmacy technician, you are not trained or licensed to advise customers with regard to medications (including OTC drugs and diet supplements) and their use. Use your best judgment to determine whether a given query from a customer exceeds the bounds of common pharmaceutical knowledge. As a rule of thumb, refer to a pharmacist for any questions involving patient assessment, the proper administration, dosage, uses, or effects of a medication (whether prescription, OTC, or diet supplement); and for any questions that require a professional opinion or judgment.

Of course, a pharmacy technician should use their best judgment with regard to providing customers with information. In the case of OTC medications, sometimes customers need basic information that is readily available on the OTC packaging. For example, a customer might ask what an analgesic is, what ‘enteric-coated’ means, which alternative brands are available, or other routine questions that can be safely answered without referring the customer to the pharmacist.

Another area where a pharmacy technician is not trained or licensed to give advice to customers is in the case of certain types of emergencies.  For example, a customer calls saying that her child has taken some of her medication by mistake and is acting ‘strange.’ Should you tell the woman to call 911, tell the woman to induce vomiting, or would you ask the pharmacist to speak to her immediately?  Of course you would do the later.  The pharmacist would probably ask the customer more specific information, such as what medication did the child take, about how many pills are missing, how is the child acting?  The pharmacist could then advise the customer as to what her next step should be.

Do not be afraid to admit your lack of expertise. Customers appreciate that you are concerned enough to make sure they receive accurate information. When a question deals with the effects or administration of a medication, ask the customer to wait for a moment while you get someone who can provide a professional answer to the question. In some instances, you may provide medication-related information when providing refills and when directed to do so by a pharmacist. When in doubt, ask the pharmacy manager! It’s better to be safe than sorry.