Clinical Pharmacy

Mastering Pharmacy Case Studies!

Dec 8th, 2020
pharmacy case studies


If you are training to become a pharmacist, you will have had experience with pharmacy case studies. But why are pharmacy case studies so important?

As a qualifying pharmacist, case studies bring together the threads of study over the past four years. This includes your study of subjects such as:

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical chemistry
  • Pharmaceutics
  • Clinical pharmacy practice

In practice, pharmacists are expected to draw on this knowledge and clinically apply it where necessary. These subjects feed into one another where knowledge of one subject became necessary to advance in a second subject and so forth. University staff overseeing the course structure put that structure together with these factors in mind. Pharmacy case studies are an important component, often toward the end of your pharmacy degree, that aim to establish the most relevant details that play a role in the career of a qualified pharmacist.

Case studies give pharmacy students an opportunity to test their understanding of a specialist topic. This may be anything from the formulation and dosing of medicines; to a drug’s mechanism of action, drug interactions, and clinical appropriateness for a medicine in a given scenario for a patient with specific factors to keep in mind. Evidently, this takes practice. There are many possible case study scenarios to consider. It can be difficult to always get things right.

Case studies are, then, a special kind of barometer through which we measure the professional competency of pharmacy students.

That is why pharmacy case studies are popular in degree programs – forcing students to think critically about a given topic – whether it be blood diagnostics, epidemiology, treatment options, or drug monitoring – tying together their past year’s study and how to apply this knowledge to (potentially) real-life situations.

Below, we’ve put together an introductory case study to provide you with a clear example of what kinds of questions can be asked and how best you should approach each question. With enough practice, clinical case studies become that much easier. And with time, students learn to enjoy case studies – as they are often your first direct experience of learning real and relevant facts that have an impact on your long-term professional career.

Pharmacy Case Study – Osteoporosis

A 49-year old woman with osteoporosis has been taking Fosamax for 6-months. She visits her GP complaining of acid reflux and pain radiating down her esophagus.

  1. What is the active ingredient of Fosamax?
  2. What is the mechanism of action of this medicine?
  3. Suggest a reason why this patient is taking Fosamax.
  4. How should the GP respond to the patient’s symptoms?
  5. What foods and/or medicines should the patient avoid?


The questions ask more about the medicine – how it works, what it’s indicated for, how the GP should respond to patient symptoms and what interactions, from both food and drug sources, the prescriber and pharmacist must consider.

A – The active ingredient of Fosamax is alendronate; a bisphosphonate drug.

B – Alendronate works by inhibiting osteoclast-mediated bone resorption (the process whereby bone is broken down and minerals are released into the blood).

C – As a 49-year old woman, the patient is likely post-menopausal. Bisphosphonates are routinely prescribed to prevent osteoporosis in these patients.

D – The patient may be improperly administering the medicine. Patients who do not follow the correct protocol of administering bisphosphonates are likely to experience specific symptoms, particularly relating to the esophagus and GI tract. Patients should be counseled to take the medicine in the morning on an empty stomach, whilst remaining upright, and taken with a full glass of water. This eases the bisphosphonate through the digestive tract without irritating the esophageal wall. Patients should avoid taking and food or medicines, both before and for at least 30-minutes after taking the bisphosphonate.

E – Two groups of medicines should be avoided. First, NSAIDs should be avoided; as they increase the risk of gastrointestinal side effects. Second, patients should avoid foods or supplements that contain multivalent ions such as magnesium, aluminum, or calcium. This category includes dairy products and antacids. As we learned above, bisphosphonates should be avoided with these medicines/foods for at least 30-minutes after the bisphosphonate has been taken (on an empty stomach).

Practice More Pharmacy Case Studies

The more pharmacy case studies you practice, the better prepared you are for the needs and demands that present during the licensing end of your pharmacy program. Pharmacy case studies help guide students through the must-know clinical facts about drugs and medicines; both theoretical and practical knowledge.

Clinical case studies are one of the ways in which students make the transition between an experienced, knowledgeable student and a clinical professional whose expertise can be trusted in the real world. Case studies bring pharmacy students to the next level. The more practice you put in, the better results you can expect as you progress through the licensing stage of your nascent career. That, in the end, is what matters.

That’s about it for our discussion of case studies! Check back to our pharmacy blog soon for more exclusive content to help you master the science of drugs and medicines and build your long-term career.