UK HealthCare

Pharmacy Versus 'Farmacy': The Differences You Need to Know

Craig Martin, Pharm.D.

The University of Kentucky Public Relations & Strategic Communications Office provides a weekly health column available for use and reprint by news media. This week's column is by Craig Martin, Pharm.D., professor and associate dean of the UK College of Pharmacy.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 25, 2019) — Do you know the difference between a pharmacy, spelled with a “ph,” and a farmacy, spelled with an ‘f’?

A pharmacy is a licensed facility that sells medicinal drugs and employs pharmacists who are licensed and specially trained as medication experts. They’re able to answer any of your medication questions in an honest, well thought-out and educated way. Pharmacies and pharmacists are licensed by a state board of pharmacy, with strict laws on their business and patient care practices.

A business which calls itself a “farmacy” or a “pharm” should not be confused with a licensed pharmacy. Some use food as “medicine,” selling healthy, fresh fruits and vegetables, and encourage healthy dieting, which can be beneficial for your overall health. Some are known for selling alternative medicine, like herbal supplements and cannabidiol (CBD). CBD can be sold in various forms like oil drops, capsules, syrups, teas and topical lotions and creams. Employees of “farmacies” or “pharms” are not required to have pharmacy training or be licensed to provide medical care.

Consumers should be very cautious when purchasing and using dietary supplements, including CBD. While “natural” products are often touted as healthy, they are not subjected to the same standards as FDA-approved medications. Your pharmacist is well-equipped to discuss the risks and benefits of such products. The “farmacy” is not. Additionally, consumers should be wary of “natural” products which can be advertised as helpful but can actually be harmful.

It’s important that we protect the trust and reputation of pharmacies and pharmacists. In fact, Kentucky law agrees, prohibiting the use of “pharmacy or apothecary…or any form designed to take the place of such a title” except by licensed pharmacies and pharmacists. While the terms farmacy and farmacist may not be used with ill-intent, they are misleading and a risk to public health. It’s like a personal care assistant calling themselves a nurse – not to say they’re not performing a good service but a nurse, like a pharmacist, is specially trained and licensed.

Overall, it’s important to be educated about what you put into your body. While we do not want to see any businesses closed, we do have an interest in protecting the identity of a pharmacist – one of the most trusted health care professionals.

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