community pharmacy

Community Pharmacies Are the Prescription for Better Health

If you have ever watched a rerun of the Andy Griffith Show on television, you probably saw an episode where the sheriff’s son, Opie, enjoys an ice cream sundae at the soda counter in the town’s pharmacy. As the child savors his treat, local residents move through the store having their prescriptions filled and shopping for medical supplies and gifts. As more people walk through the front door, the pharmacist greets each person by name. Minus the soda counter, that scene in fictional Mayberry is still typical of today’s community pharmacies.

From October 16-22, 2022, the United States will observe National Pharmacy Week to recognize the invaluable contributions pharmacists and technicians make to patient care in hospitals and throughout the community.

“Many people form long-term professional relationships with the pharmacists and technicians in their community pharmacies,” said Michelle Bennett, Pharm D, BCPS, Director of Retail Pharmacy Operations at Penn Highlands Healthcare. “In fact, some people rely on their community pharmacists for a large part of their medical information and education.”

More than 90% of people in the United States live within five miles of a community pharmacy. Community pharmacists are often the primary source of education and counseling. They have the knowledge to address inquiries related to dosing, administration, storage, potential side effects and drug interactions. In addition, pharmacists deliver important public health services such as vaccinations, point-of-care testing and chronic and acute disease prevention and management.

“In a community pharmacy, the staff gets to know their customers – particularly the symptoms they may be experiencing, the prescription and over-the-counter drugs they are taking and their tolerance levels,” said Mrs. Bennett. “In terms of medications, they will often act as a liaison between the patient and the prescribing physician’s staff when issues arise.”

Mrs. Bennett points out that it is frequently the community pharmacist who notifies doctors when a patient has an adverse reaction to a drug. He or she will work with the patient’s physician to suggest an alternative medication or treatment.

Through the years, the role of the community pharmacist has expanded to include: administration of immunizations, medication synchronization, medication therapy management, point-of-care testing and assistance in the selection of Medicare plans.

“For years, people relied on community pharmacies for their annual flu shots, and during the recent pandemic, the pharmacies became the primary provider of the COVID-19 vaccines,” said Mrs. Bennett.

As a pharmacist herself, Mrs. Bennett reminds people that while they are getting COVID-19 boosters from their community pharmacies, they should visit them for the flu vaccine too. Patients can receive both vaccinations at the same time.

“Most pharmacies have a supply of the flu vaccine on hand. I tell everyone that the vaccine is your best defense each flu season because it can reduce illness, visits to doctors’ offices and missed work. It also can help to make symptoms less severe and reduce flu-related hospitalizations and deaths.”

Penn Highlands Healthcare offers a network of Community Pharmacies which are staffed by teams of experienced pharmacists and technicians. As part of the Penn Highlands health system, the pharmacists have the ability to work directly with Penn Highlands providers to coordinate medication therapy and ensure continuity of care. For the location of the Penn Highlands Community Pharmacy near you, visit