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Pharmacists need a thorough knowledge of drug products. Most importantly, they need to understand how drugs work for people who are sick, how the drugs interact with a person's body as well as illness, and how different drugs may interact with each other. In addition to dispensing drugs according to orders from physicians, dentists, and other health care practitioners, pharmacists advise these professionals on the appropriate selection and use of medications. They monitor how long patients have been taking a medication and provide information to patients and doctors when a generic brand of a drug is available. In addition to advising doctors and other health professionals, pharmacists talk with patients or customers about medications, explaining what the medications are supposed to do and how to use them properly. Pharmacists working in retail locations, such as a neighborhood drugstore, may also find that customers come to them with questions about symptoms. They may recommend nonprescription products such as headache remedies, vitamins, and cough syrups. All pharmacists keep records of drugs and medications dispensed to each person in order to identify duplicate drugs or combinations of drugs that can cause adverse reactions or side effects. (At many large pharmacy chains, this information is provided to the pharmacist by software programs.)
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