Misawa's medics dispense life-saving pharmaceuticals

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- "Doctors can diagnose and stitch you up, but without the pharmacy, there's no medication to keep you from feeling the needle or drugs nursing you back to health," said Staff Sgt. Marcus Hollins, a 35th Medical Support Squadron pharmacy technician.

The pharmacy is an integral unit that keeps Misawa's Airmen and their families healthy. They're responsible for interpreting, filling and dispensing prescriptions. They also work directly with providers and their patients to ensure they fully understand their medications and how to use them.

With more than 3,000 beneficiaries and an inventory worth nearly $2.1 million, Hollins said they have their hands full, but always place the patient's safety first.

"Our goal is to provide the best possible medical care in the least amount of time while ensuring each patient receives the correct dosage applicable to their prescription," he said. "We are the medical group's last line of defense."

Hollins added medications are an ever-evolving technological wonder that cost the Air Force more and more each year as he emphasized their commitment to the service's "Every Dollar Counts" campaign.

"Our team is always looking for ways to save the Air Force money while adhering to contractual government obligations," he said. "From the simplest of medications to life-saving staples like IV bags and treatments like insulin for the diabetic--every dollar counts."

"[The pharmacy] actually makes the insulin in-house," added Hollins. "We also derive asthma meds and breathing treatments as well as antibiotics for pediatrics. The pharmacy is involved in nearly every medical mission here--you name it, we're probably there."

While the pharmacy may disperse prescription drugs, they're also the central return point for all unused medications.

"Every month we destroy between 30 and 50 pounds of returned medications," said Staff Sgt. Krystal Hicks, a 35th MDSS pharmacy technician. "Our goal is to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs."

Hicks said it's important to return any unused prescriptions, especially narcotic-based, as once the prescription date runs out, a member is liable for anything that may show up on a random drug screening test.

So whether it's managing the installation's drug take back campaign or providing epidural local anesthetics during labor, Maj. Jennifer Baker, the 35th MDSS pharmacy flight commander, said that without the pharmacy, surgeries wouldn't happen, IVs aren't made and post-surgery medications wouldn't exist.

"Our team helps maximize positive health outcomes and improve the quality of life through patient counseling and careful quality control," the major said. "We're the final step before a patient leaves the medical group."

For more information or to contact the pharmacy, call DSN 226-6607.