Q&A with Rexall Pharmacy Manager Jessie Chen

I recently got the chance to visit the newest Rexall, located inside the ol’ Brunswick House. And I’m not going to lie, it was a bit of a trip.

The bones of The Brunny remain intact with tin ceilings and exposed brick, and there’s even a small homage to the legendary watering hole with scattered artifacts, old party photos and signage worked into the pharmacy’s interior. 

I remember my last visit, probably close to ten years ago with a group of university pals, which ended with me shotgunning two pints just before last call. The rest of the night is hazy. 

Now, years later, I find myself picking out a vegan multivitamin just before I’m scheduled to chat with pharmacy manager, Jessie Chen. I smile to myself, grateful for the perspective gained over the last decade. Who knew that The Brunny and I would grow up together?

SDTC: Can you tell us about some of the more unique services that Rexall Pharmacy offers?

JC: We offer a lot of different services. What a lot of people don’t know is that pharmacists can provide a refill or extension for you (after an assessment) if you cannot get ahold of your doctor in time to refill a prescription. A good example of this is birth control as it’s vital that you don’t miss a pill; that’s a very good service we provide to ensure there isn’t a gap between patient care.

We are also very big on compliance because medication is only good if you are taking it properly. We even offer components packaging for people who are taking three or more medications at the time. Sometimes it’s confusing to remember when to take what, so by packaging medication as scheduled (with labels), it’s easier to visualize what you’re taking and when. This is a free service for all of our patients.

I had no idea you guys did this. What a thoughtful and helpful service for those struggling with memory loss. 

And also for people who are providing care to their family members; it makes it a lot easier to provide proper care. And it’s free of charge to anyone with a prescription.

What’s your favourite thing about working at this particular Rexall location?

I really like how they integrated the old Brunswick House into the new pharmacy. I love the demographic here; lots of young family and very vibrant, nice people who are health conscious and aren’t afraid to ask questions about their health. As pharmacists, we like to encourage this, because chances are, we’ll have an answer for you.

I feel the tides are finally turning and people are starting to understand that pharmacists have a ton of education and insight. If you value your health, it makes sense to cultivate a relationship with your pharmacist. 

Pharmacists have to go through a four-year professional degree pharmacy program, so we have extensive training in terms of medication. We’re also one of the most accessible healthcare professions in Canada; you don’t need an appointment to see a pharmacist!

So you essentially can come up to any pharmacist and say, “I got my medication somewhere else but I have a question about it,” and you’re qualified and able to help me? 

Definitely. Provided it’s within our scope, we can answer the question to the best our knowledge and chances are, we are also open longer hours, when your doctor’s office might be closed. So you can come by and ask us questions, and more often than not, we’ll be able to answer you before you have to see a doctor.

I feel like most people don’t know that. I certainly didn’t. 

We get that a lot. Traditionally, people think that pharmacists just fill medications, but in reality, the profession involves so much more. We can provide recommendations for over-the-counter products and can administer flu shots. Most recently, we were approved to administer other vaccines like shingles and HPV.

Do you need an appointment for those?

No appointment necessary. We can also provide smoking sensation counselling and pharmacists can even prescribe medication for smoking sensation with follow-up.

My next question is very millennial-focused since nobody has money right now and everybody is trying to save. Many of my friends end up purchasing the generic version of the medication they’re prescribed because it’s cheaper, and they often don’t tell their doctors. Is this okay to do?

All the generic drugs in Canada undergo a very strict approval process. A lot of people think cheaper means less quality, but in reality that’s not true. A generic medication has the same amount of active ingredients as the brand name reference drug. They are cheaper mainly because they don’t have to go through the same extent of research and clinical trials, but they are Health Canada approved. The only difference is that the non-medicinal ingredients may be a little different in the brand name drug, so as long as you’re not allergic, it’s definitely worth it to go with the generic drug; it saves you a lot of money.

What’s your favourite thing about your job?

It’s very rewarding to work with patients over a period of time, and especially to notice them start to improve. And just how much they appreciate your help.

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