5 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Ask Your Pharmacist

The number of prescriptions dispensed by pharmacists exceeds 4 billion nationwide according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Roughly 50 to 75 percent of these prescriptions are used incorrectly, which is often due to misunderstanding or ignoring script instructions that are provided on the container and accompanying paperwork from the pharmacy. The pharmacist plays a crucial role in educating consumers about medication use. This role is even more critical when you consider that consumers see the pharmacist more than their health care provider and often have quicker access to a retail pharmacist for consultation.

1. Ask about a Generic Version

Your doctor may write the prescriptions, but you can advocate for yourself by asking your pharmacist for the generic equivalent of the medication. Prescription drug costs are prohibitive, and comparable generics are usually available for the most widely used prescription-grade medications. Typically, the script will indicate if generic substitution is appropriate in your situation, so make sure to ask the pharmacist for a more affordable option for all of your prescriptions. If substitution is allowed, the pharmacy should take care of contacting your doctor’s office to approve the change.

2. Consult the Pharmacist for Appropriate Medication for Minor Ailments

Licensed pharmacists are trained in the science of pharmaceuticals. They may not dispense medication without the proper prescription, but they are qualified to advise customers about over-the-counter medications and their proper use. If you have a minor rash, coughing episodes without fever and stomach ailments, you can go to the consultation window to ask about the best OTC medication for your condition. Based on your age, description of your conditions and general health, the pharmacist may recommend OTC medication and practical self-care solutions.

3. Ask for Advice about Dosing

Your physician or nurse practitioner who issued the prescription would certainly include dosing instructions such as how much to take, frequency of dosing and how long the treatment should last. Ask your pharmacist questions related to the best time of day to take the prescribed medicine, possible interactions with food and other medications, including OTC medication and herbal supplements. If you use the same pharmacy for all of your prescriptions, the pharmacist can review your account to look for possible interactions with medication that you are already taking and how to avoid unexpected interactions.

4. Ask About a User-friendly Way to Take Medication

If the medication is for children, ask the pharmacist for a delivery method that will facilitate ingestion without tears. Medication in syrup form come with nasty flavors and odors for a reason, making it difficult for users to swallow. Ask about reformulations to mask unpleasant taste or smell. Ask the pharmacist for advise about taking large pills especially if you have problems swallowing. Many pills should not be crushed, cut up or divided, and pharmacy professionals may know of a solution to make the medicine go down more efficiently.

5. Ask the Pharmacy for a Brown-Bag Review

The so-called brown bag review entails brown-bagging all the medications you use, including prescriptions, OTC, supplements and drugs taken occasionally for headaches, allergies and minor ailments. The pharmacist will undertake a medication management consultation to look for interactions, duplication and potential overdosing.

The pharmacist is part of a patient’s health care team. This fact is often overlooked, which is unfortunate, because this is a community resource for services beyond dispensing medication. These fee-free services include clarifying dosing instructions, recommending OTC solutions, providing guidance on the use of OTC medications for minor ailments and ensuring that consumers are not at risk for overdoses or harmful interactions. Make sure to take advantage of the expertise of these pharmacists when you have questions about medication because they also have easy access to other resources, including pharmaceutical databases, insurance information and doctors’ offices.