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Taking the right medicine

Pharmaceutical technicians at Kadena Air Base serve as advisors to help patients  understand their medications better before they are taken Oct. 8. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Rey Ramon)

Pharmaceutical technicians at Kadena Air Base serve as advisors to help patients understand their medications better before they are taken Oct. 8. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Rey Ramon)

Tech. Sgt. Lilibeth Fajutagana, 18th Medical Support Squadron NCOIC of pharmacy, looks for the right medication to give to a patient Oct. 21. Pharmaceutical technicians at Kadena Air Base serve as advisors to help patients understand their medications before they are taken. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Rey Ramon)

Tech. Sgt. Lilibeth Fajutagana, 18th Medical Support Squadron NCOIC of pharmacy, looks for the right medication to give to a patient Oct. 21. Pharmaceutical technicians at Kadena Air Base serve as advisors to help patients understand their medications before they are taken. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Rey Ramon)

Pharmaceutical technicians at Kadena Air Base serve as advisors to help patients understand their medications besides putting pills in a bottle Oct. 8.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Rey Ramon)

Pharmaceutical technicians at Kadena Air Base serve as advisors to help patients understand their medications besides putting pills in a bottle Oct. 8. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Rey Ramon)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- When you get sick or a loved one feels ill, who do you rely on to find the right medication? The pharmacy staff at the Kadena clinic hopes you'll call on them to help overcome ailments. 

We serve as the 'gatekeepers' before the patient leaves the clinic and uses the medication for their illnesses, said Capt. Katie Austin, 18th Medical Support Squadron chief of pharmacy element. 

"It is very important that we do have that level of technical skills and knowledge of what the medication does to the body," she added. 

The personalized care each patient receives begins at the check-in counter. The patient goes through a verification process which ensures the correct medication is dispensed to the correct individual. The prescription is then checked to see if it's in stock and proceeds to the 'fillers' who check the proper dosage to make sure the doctor isn't prescribing a dose that's too high for the patient. If there is something noticeably wrong, the process is ceased and the doctor is called for verification on the prescription. 

"We can't continue until the doctor responds back and clarifies," said SSgt. Miranda Council, 18th MDSS pharmacy technician. "This is why the patient has to wait 20 to 30 minutes because the doctor might have another patient and can't stop in the middle of seeing a patient." 

Many customers appreciate the thorough examination process of the pharmacy, even if it means waiting a few extra minutes. Captain Austin quoted a patient saying, "I don't want fast food healthcare." 

The final step before a patient receives his or her prescription is for the "checker" to verify again there are no mistakes. This check includes examining other medications a patient may be taking to counteract negative drug interactions and ensuring the patient is not allergic to the prescription. 

"We verify with the doctor if that is what they want for their patient," said Tech. Sgt. Lilibeth Fajutagana, 18th MDSS NCOIC of pharmacy. "In that aspect we benefit the patient, the doctor, and the provider benefits from us as well because they come to us and ask what would be the best medication to prescribe for the patient." 

Captain Austin clearly believes the sole responsibility for correctly taking medication falls on the patient, but it is her team's expertise that ensures the patient is educated properly before taking his or her prescriptions. 

"We want our customers to realize that the pharmacy is not just putting pills in a bottle, there's more to it," said Sergeant Fajutagana. "We are the advisors when it comes to medications." 

All patients are given that extra step in the process to take the medication correctly, said the captain. "Because the most expensive medicine is the one that's taken incorrectly."