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 pharmacy owner
Stuart Feldman, “but there are other solutions.”
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. Either way, your pharmacist has
spent more time studying drugs than even your doctor has.
“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.”
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. When you pick up your prescription, at a minimum,
ask, 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.
“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.”
Pharmacists are filling more prescriptions than ever.
“Some pharmacies are so volume-driven that the pharmacist can’t look up
all day,” says pharmacist Cindy Coffey. There were a record 3.8 billion
prescriptions filled in the U.S. in 2007—a 13 percent increase from
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 pharmacist Daniel Zlott, “but I’d be breaking the law in some states if I gave it to you.”
Sources: Jim Joseph, certified financial planner, Rockville,
Maryland; John Gugle, CFP, Charlotte, North Carolina; Geoffrey Hakim,
founder, Marin Capital Management, San Rafael, California; Mark Stein,
CFP, president, AeGIS Financial Advisors, Phoenix, Arizona; Terri
Hickman, financial consultant, Grand Junction, Colorado; and Dana
Anspach, principal, Wealth Management Solutions, Scottsdale, Arizona.