pharmacists  After years of adding everything from groceries to grills to their inventory, pharmacy chains are once again emphasizing their pharmacists.

Pharmacists are being asked -- and paid by insurance companies -- to monitor their customers' health. That could include counseling them on chronic diseases, making sure they're taking their medications, and screening for maladies from diabetes to high cholesterol.

While many pharmacists have long done more than dispense pills, this is the first time many have been able to offer such a wide range of medical services -- partially because of changes in the way pharmacists are educated, and partially because of legislative changes that have cleared the way for an expanded role.

For pharmaceutical chains, the change is an opportunity to develop new sources of revenue in a highly competitive industry.

For customers, it's another option for health care, and one that may be less expensive and take less time than a trip to the emergency room or an urgent care clinic.

"I think it's a mixture of everything that's going on," said David Catalano, a Raleigh pharmacist who works for Walgreens. "[Customers] are trying to get some advice as quick as they can from someone they can trust."

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