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ABOVE: Community Pharmacist Graham Phillips

A Hertfordshire pharmacist says we're too quick to make assumptions about medicines.

Graham Phillips, who runs the Manor Pharmacy Group from Wheathamstead, is encouraging people to always seek clarity and read any paperwork found in boxes.

It comes as the National Pharmacy Association says almost half of us believe that side-effects outlined on leaflets are exaggerated.

He's been telling us that we need to ask questions at the pharmacy: "Very many people collect their medicines from their doctor and so the NHS bears the full cost.

"What we're saying as pharmacists is that we're not perfect and the system isn't perfect, but if in doubt, ask your pharmacist who will be more than delighted to give you help, support and advice not just about medicines, but about your care in general".

During Ask Your Pharmacist Week (November 5-12), thousands of pharmacies are distributing leaflets highlighting the risks of taking medicines inappropriately. These can include painful side effects, addiction and even death.

The NPA's Director of Pharmacy, Leyla Hannbeck, says that talking frankly with a local pharmacist is the best way to understand the risks and benefits of medicines and avoid harm: "If used inappropriately, medicines have the power to harm as well as to heal, even medicines you can pick up from a supermarket shelf or a pound shop. 

"So it's important to take professional advice, and in particular to have a full and frank dialogue with your local pharmacist.

"Answer any questions asked by pharmacy staff accurately and fully, so that the pharmacist can be sure that the medicine is safe for you and that your symptoms don't indicate a serious underlying health problem. 

"If you aren't satisfied with the advice given in the pharmacy, feel free to challenge it. A good pharmacist will not be offended and should welcome the opportunity to reassure you, to clarify, or to discuss alternatives."

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association added: "Having a good understanding of how their medicines work helps patients take an active role in their own care. 

"Patients should give full and clear information to their pharmacist and be supported to demand full and clear advice in return." 

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