Pharmacists and Technicians—An Evolution

In the early 17th century, the duties of the pharmacist, then called an apothecary, were basically to prepare and dispense medications. Now, with the advancement of technology and the ability to mass produce drugs, the pharmacists’ duties have changed and evolved. This transition and expansion has created a need for well-trained pharmacy helpers, assistants if you will, to take over many of the pharmacist’s duties to allow him/her to counsel patients, review medication profiles, screen patients for disease, offer immunizations, manage retail operations, and many other duties.

Therefore, your role as a pharmacy technician has also evolved from a clerk or cashier to more of an assistant. While you can generally carry out many of the tasks traditionally performed by the pharmacist, there are still legal limits governing both the pharmacist and the technician. By default, duties not required by law or regulation to be done by a pharmacist may be carried out by the technician. Below are some of duties that are typically performed by pharmacists and technicians, but keep in mind that requirements vary from state to state.


  • Receiving a verbal prescription in person or by telephone
  • Transferring prescriptions to another pharmacy
  • Counseling on possible side effects and adverse reactions
  • Making recommendations about OTC medications, as well as vitamins, herbs, and diet supplements
  • Performing drug utilization reviews
  • Monitoring the safe use of controlled substances


  • Entering prescription information into the computer database
  • Filling, labeling, and selling prescriptions
  • Stocking and managing the inventory of prescription and OTC medications
  • Billing online insurance claims
  • Helping with the preparation of sterile products in an institutional pharmacy
  • Answering and properly directing telephone calls

Remember that you, as a pharmacy technician, are accountable to the pharmacist for the quality and accuracy of your work, and the pharmacist takes final responsibility (and legal liability) for your actions.

INTERESTING FACT: Benedict Arnold served in the role of an “apothecary apprentice” for five years before operating a successful pharmacy for twelve years. His infamy came from his traitorous role in the Revolutionary War, fortunately not from any connection with pharmacy.

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