13+ Secrets Your Pharmacist Isn’t Telling You

Learn how to save money, avoid mistakes, and get the most out of your visit to the drugstore.

View as Slideshow

 

When you pick up your prescription, at a minimum, ask:

When you pick up your prescription, at a minimum,  ask:istock/SelectStock
What is this drug? What does it do? Why am I taking it? What are possible side effects? and How should I take it? Not only does this help you to use the drug correctly; it’s also a good way to double-check that you’re getting the right drug. Half the prescriptions taken in the U.S. each year are used improperly, and 96 percent of patients nationwide don’t ask questions about how to use their medications.

We're human…

We're human…istock/Felipe Caparrós Cruz
And we make mistakes—about two million a year. Ask if we use a bar-code system to help keep us from pulling the wrong drug off the shelf or giving the wrong strength of the right drug.

Your pharmacist has spent more time studying drugs than even your doctor has.

Your pharmacist has spent more time studying drugs than even your doctor has.istock/Robert Kneschke
Go ahead and call me doctor; I’m just not that kind of doctor. Since mid-2004, pharmacy students must pursue a doctorate in pharmacy (Pharm.D) in order to be licensed. Pharmacists licensed before then must have at least a Bachelor of Pharmacy and pass a series of exams.

Content continues below ad

All pharmacists are not created equal.

All pharmacists are not created equal.istock/Kwangmoozaa
A less-qualified pharmacy technician may have actually filled your prescription. Currently, there is no national standard for their training and responsibilities.

People assume that if it’s over-the-counter, it’s safe.

People assume that if it’s over-the-counter, it’s safe.istock/Yuri_Arcurs
According to Daniel Zlott, a pharmacist at the National Institutes of Health, this may not always be the case for you. “I’ve seen serious complications” with over-the-counter meds, he says.

An over-the-counter version of your medication might do the trick.

An over-the-counter version of your medication might do the trick.istock/cristi_m
You may just need to take more pills and forgo insurance reimbursement. But always talk to your pharmacist, and do the math.

Content continues below ad

We'll save you money if we can.

We'll save you money if we can. istock/Steve Debenport
“A good part of a pharmacist’s time is spent dealing with patients and their incomes,” says pharmacist Cindy Coffey. Part of that is suggesting generic or OTC alternatives. Or if a doctor has prescribed a newer drug with no generic alternative available, says Zlott, “I might call the doctor to suggest an older drug that’s equally effective.”    

I’d think twice about using a drive-through pharmacy.

I’d think twice about using a drive-through pharmacy. istock/Micah Youello
Working there distracts us—not a good thing when it comes to pharmaceuticals.

The more I know you, the more I can help you.

The more I know you, the more I can help you.istock/sturti
“The better I know you as a patient—your health history, your family, and how busy your life is—the better I can tailor medications to fit your lifestyle,” says Zlott. “You may not want to take a drug three times a day, for example, and I’ll know that if I know you.”  

Content continues below ad

Generics are a close match for most brand names.

Generics are a close match for most brand names.istock/&#169 Paul Reid
But I’d be careful with blood thinners and thyroid drugs, since small differences can have big effects.

Don't try to get anything past us.

Don't try to get anything past us.istock/stevecoleimages
Prescriptions for painkillers or sleeping aids always get extra scrutiny.

When in doubt, ask.

When in doubt, ask.istock/Kwangmoozaa
I can give you a generic refill that’s different from the one you started with. Online resources like cvs.com let you double-check your pill.

Content continues below ad

Use one pharmacy if you can.

Use one pharmacy if you can.istock/Yuri_Arcurs
There’s not some big computer database that tracks your drugs and flags interactions for pharmacists everywhere. If you start using a new pharmacy, make sure we know what you’re taking.

Here's how to avoid lines:

Here's how to avoid lines:isotck/nattul
It gets busy Monday and Tuesday evenings, since many new prescriptions and refills come in after the weekend.

Look into the $4 generics.

Look into the $4 generics.istock/stevecoleimages
Chains like Target, Kroger, and Wal-Mart offer them. And it can’t hurt to ask your pharmacy if it will match the price.

Content continues below ad

Yelling at me won't help.

Yelling at me won't help.istock/aykuterd
If I can’t reach your doctor and/or insurance company to approve a refill, there’s nothing I can do about it. “It’s frustrating,” says Zlott, “but I’d be breaking the law in some states if I gave it to you.”

Pharmacists are required by law in most states to counsel patients and answer their questions.

Pharmacists are required by law in most states to counsel patients and answer their questions. istock/Yuri_Arcurs
If your pharmacist seems too busy to do talk with you, take your business someplace else.

Pharmacists are filling more prescriptions than ever.

Pharmacists are filling more prescriptions than ever.istock/IPGGutenbergUKLtd
“Some pharmacies are so volume-driven that the pharmacist can’t look up all day,” says Coffey. There were a record 3.8 billion prescriptions filled in the U.S. in 2007—a 13 percent increase from 2003.

Content continues below ad

Sometimes we can't read the doctor's handwriting either.

Sometimes we can't read the doctor's handwriting either.istock/fotostorm
E-prescribing can help, but as of 2006, fewer than 20 percent of prescriptions were being electronically transmitted.

I hate your insurance company as much as you do.

I hate your insurance company as much as you do.istock/Nick M. Do
“Even if something’s working for you, the insurance company may insist you switch to something else,” says pharmacy owner Stuart Feldman. “I’m stuck in the middle trying to explain this to customers.”

We can give flu shots in most states.

We can give flu shots in most states. istock/simarik
Ask us.

Content continues below ad

People take too many drugs.

People take too many drugs. istock/Damocless
Two out of every three patients who visit a doctor leave with at least one prescription for medication, according to the Institute for Safe Medication Practices. “Drugs are an easy solution,” says Feldman, “but there are other solutions.” Sources: Dr. Daniel Zlott, oncology pharmacist, National Institutes of Health; Cindy Coffey, PharmD; Greg Collins, pharmacy supervisor, CVS/pharmacy, California; Stuart Feldman, owner, Cross River Pharmacy, New York

Want to stay smart and healthy?

Get our weekly Health Reads newsletter

how we use your e-mail
We will use your email address to send you the newsletter each week, and we may also send you occasional special offers from Reader's Digest. For more information please read our privacy policy.

Funny Jokes

Some people like to travel by train because 
it combines the slowness of a car with the cramped public exposure of 
an airplane.

Dennis Miller

Funny Jokes

I think my pilot was a little inexperienced. We were sitting on the runway, and he said, “OK, folks, we’re gonna be taking off in a just few—whoa! Here we go.”

Kevin Nealon

Funny Jokes

“I can’t wait until your vacation is over.” 
—Everyone following you on Instagram

@kristencarney

Funny Jokes

A man knocked on my door and asked for a donation toward the local swimming pool. So I gave him a glass of water.

Comedian Greg Davies

Funny Jokes

Just found the worst page in the entire dictionary. What I saw was disgraceful, disgusting, dishonest, and disingenuous.

@sixthformpoet

Funny Jokes

Client: We need you to log in to the YouTube and make all our company videos viral.

From clientsfromhell.net

Funny Jokes

My cat just walked up to the paper shredder and said, “Teach me 
everything you know.”

@NicCageMatch

Funny Jokes

“Just because you can’t dance doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dance.” 
—Alcohol

@yoyoha (Josh Hara)

Funny Jokes

My parents didn’t want to move to Florida, but they turned 60 and that’s the law.

—Jerry Seinfeld

Funny Jokes

Q: What do you call an Amish guy with his hand in a horse’s mouth?

A: A mechanic.