Pharmacy historically is the profession of dispensing medication. More recently, the term has come to include other functions related to patient care (clinical functions), some of which are now mandated by federal or state law. These include monitoring drug orders for appropriateness, for adverse drug interactions and following the course of therapy to insure positive outcomes. Pharmacy is thus distinct from pharmacology, an academic discipline which includes the study of mechanisms of drug action. In most jurisdictions, pharmacists are regulated separately from physicians hence the separate profession. In other jurisdictions, the doctor is allowed to dispense drugs themselves and the practice of pharmacy is integrated with that of the physician. Where so regulated, only pharmacists may dispense certain pharmaceuticals, typically narcotics and antibiotics.

A pharmacy (known also as a chemist's[1] or in American English a drugstore) is also a place where pharmacists (chemists) practise the profession of pharmacy. Many retailers (including grocery stores and mass merchanidizers) now include a pharmacy as department of their store. Many pharmacies also sell household items. Within pharmacies, the term "dispensary" is sometimes used to distinguish that part of the store which pharmacists practise pharmacy. The dispensary is subject to pharmacy legislation. The rest of the pharmacy is simply a retail store.

Pharmacies are also located within hospitals and nursing homes and function as a department of these larger organizations. Such pharmacies are known within the pharmacy industry as "hospital pharmacies" to distinguish from "retail" or "community" pharmacies. Pharmacists in hospital pharmacies often have more complex medications whereas pharmacists in community pharmacies often have more complex business and customer relations issues. In medical buildings where physicians and other medical professionals congregate, a small community pharmacy may be present as well for the convenience of patients. Such a "medical pharmacy" is legally distinct from the other medical professionals, unlike the pharmacies integrated into hospitals. A medical pharmacy is in fact a community pharmacy.

The icon most commonly associated with the practise of pharmacy is the mortar and pestle. Apothecary is an older term used for pharmacy and pharmacists.

List of drugstores