Complementing or Conflicting: Pharmacist vs Doctor

The role of pharmacist has been under assault recently. With scathing titles such as ‘FARMASIS BUKAN DOCTOR’ and ‘MMA (Malaysian Medical Association) TEGUR AHLI FARMASI’, the public must have been shocked by the articles. Well, that is practically right. Pharmacists are not doctors. Doctors are not pharmacists either. Both pharmacists and doctors have a role to fill. The relationship between pharmacists and doctors should be complementary.

Our relationship should be somewhat like what the legendary Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder sang: ‘Ebony and Ivory, living together in perfect harmony, Side by side on my piano keyboard, oh Lord, why don’t we? We all know people are the same wherever you go, There is good and bad in anyone’

Can you imagine a piano keyboard without white or black keys? That would not work. The same applies to our healthcare sector.

How Pharmacists Complement Doctors

1. Last Line of Defense

Everyone makes mistakes. Pharmacists are the last line of defense against medication errors. Pharmacists help to check through the prescription before the medications are being dispensed to the patient. 

Another classic example would be therapeutic duplication. A patient might be seeing a few doctors resulting in the same medication being prescribed twice by two different doctors. Through medication review by a pharmacist, these mistakes can be sorted out. 

2. Source of Medication Information

Many patients nowadays are very health conscious. These patients often ask and try to understand more about the prescribed medications before taking them. Some are even medication skeptics. They will either ask the pharmacists or google themselves. Without pharmacists reinforcing the need to take their medication, some patients might not take their medications as directed.

(Medications can seem intimidating on the internet.  Don’t believe me? Try google ‘Side effect of paracetamol’) 

3. Point of Care Testing

Let’s make it clear: It is wrong for pharmacists to ‘prescribe’ medications after a test.
We need to also admit this: the tests in pharmacies save lives. 

Simple tests done in pharmacies can identify individuals with high risk of hypertension and Type II Diabetes. These individuals are then referred to doctors for further checking. This results in early detection of chronic diseases which otherwise might only be detected when the individuals are already symptomatic (which could be too late). 

The Role of General Practitioners:

General practitioners (GP) are doctors who treat acute and chronic illnesses and provide preventative care. The role of GP includes:

1. Wellness Exams and Preventative Medicine
While many visit a pharmacy for blood pressure or sugar check, this is not a substitute for your medical check-up with a doctor. Only a doctor can diagnose your condition and prescribe you medications such as high blood pressure or cholesterol medications. General Practitioners also help with immunisations and preventive care.

2. Urgent Care for Illness or Injury
General Practitioners help treat acute conditions such as minor wounds, asthma attacks, skin infections, etc. 

3. Chronic Conditions
General practitioners can prescribe medication, provide lifestyle recommendations and provide follow-up for chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol. 

Doctors and Pharmacists have different roles to play. Both should work together in improving the health of the public. By working together, doctors and pharmacists can deliver quality healthcare to their patients. 








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  2. Complementing or conflicting? How pharmacists and physicians position the community pharmacist [Internet]. scielo. 2020 [cited 13 May 2022]. Available from:
  3. What Is a General Practitioner? [Internet]. WebMD. 2022 [cited 20 May 2022]. Available from: