The community pharmacists role in Functional Medicine and Clinical Nutrition

Updated: Aug 9, 2018

Healthcare is evolving and so is the need for Pharmacists to evolve!


Pharmacy practice has evolved to the needs of medicine over time. RPhs evolved to PharmDs in response to a clinical void in American healthcare. Now, as healthcare needs have now shifted towards a proactive and less reactive approach, a shift is again needed for pharmacists to evolve. The Integrative & Functional approach to wellness needs pharmacists in order to thrive and grow this new and growing model of healthcare.


What is Functional Medicine?

The Functional Medicine (FM) model is an individualized, patient-centered, science-based approach that empowers patients and practitioners to work together to address the underlying causes of disease and promote optimal wellness. It requires a detailed understanding of each patient’s genetic, biochemical, and lifestyle factors and leverages that data to direct personalized treatment plans that lead to improved patient outcomes. By addressing root cause, rather than symptoms, practitioners become oriented to identifying the complexity of disease. They may find one condition has many different causes and, likewise, one cause may result in many different conditions. As a result, Functional Medicine treatment targets the specific manifestations of disease in each individual.


What is the pharmacist's role in Functional Medicine?

I often am asked by fellow pharmacist colleagues about Functional Medicine (FM) and what I am doing in my pharmacy practice. Functional Medicine is a very exciting and innovative model of care rapidly emerging in today’s healthcare landscape. Pharmacists’ comprehension of this modality present challenges and also advantages. Utilizing functional medicine in today’s community pharmacy takes a new kind of pharmacist. I call it a pivot in the way we practice. We have to go beyond the pill in everything we do. It takes more than just a prescription to heal or reverse a chronic condition. In our pharmacy, our goal is to reduce our patients dependency on medications, not fill more!


It all starts with clinical nutrition…..

In order for the pharmacist to understand and practice functional medicine in their setting, a foundational understanding of clinical nutrition (CN) is the necessary first steps. We don’t have to be certified clinical nutritionists (CCN or CNS) in order to be the experts in our pharmacies. Utilizing the nutritional companies reps are a great way to start. Using professional grade nutraceuticals only available to you, the healthcare practitioner, is the best strategy to start improving and healing your patients. ALL of your patients need quality nutritional products and supplements.


Food is the best medicine!

Functional Nutrition is about finding the right way for each of us as individuals to eat—using food to maximize the potential for health and reverse dysfunction or disease. There is no single “right diet” that applies to all of us. We have different genetic backgrounds, different preferences, and different lives. We all want to be healthy, but most of us haven’t figured out just how to make food and dietary patterns serve that goal. Functional Nutrition offers the concepts, strategies, and tools to make that happen!


Emerging science is very clear that food is a powerful influence on health. Food offers not only the calories that fuel our body’s metabolism (engine), but it also contains many diverse components that play important roles in all our bodily functions. Poor-quality food can actually create disease, and high-quality food—in the right proportions and amounts—can reverse disease and sustain health. In a very real sense, food is medicine!


Understanding and utilizing clinical and functional nutrition is the first step in applying functional medicine in your community pharmacy. Food and targeted supplementation improves patient outcomes while creating new revenue streams for the pharmacist, creating a new and sustainable model for community pharmacy to thrive. This now opens the pharmacist to implement lifestyle education and functional medicine protocols. We will go over some of these strategies in part 2 of the article.

Pharmacists can no longer rely on the dispensing (commodity) model of pharmaceutical care.


We are practitioners relevant and needed in the Integrative/Functional Medicine care model! We need to create a new paradigm for pharmaceutical care and defining the next generation pharmacist. It’s time to get out from behind the pharmacy bench and into a more defined role in our patients health.


Stay Well,

Josh Rimany RPh., FACA

42 views