There is a saying, “Drugs don’t work in people who don’t take them.” One of your best allies in maintaining optimum health can be your pharmacist. Understanding that relationship and the ways that both you as the consumer, and the pharmacy can relate results is not only the best service, but also increases the chance for better compliance.

There are several factors for your consideration in making the most of your pharmacy relationship. Busy times at pharmacies can mean more people, more noise, and feeling rushed and having less time to interact with the pharmacist. Ask your pharmacy of choice what is the best day of the week, best time of the day, and if your pharmacy has more than one location – if there is a less busy, quieter site. Ask if there may be times of the day when there is more than one pharmacist on duty which would allow for more availability to you. Some pharmacies close over the noon hour. This is information you would want to know when either selecting your pharmacy, or scheduling your errands.

Consumers may choose to utilize more than one pharmacy for money-saving reasons – getting $4 medications can be compelling! When making that choice, take into consideration the care and assistance you may get from using a single provider that has all your up-to-date information, knows you and the family member who may frequently be involved, and where you can establish a relationship. That relationship will be even more important if/when the family member/caregiver becomes the primary contact with the pharmacist for their family member. Pharmacists can be challenged to provide good service if the person does not know what they are requesting and cannot read or doesn’t understand what is on the pill bottle. They receive calls asking for the “little, round, white pill”, or refills a prescription that was not originally filled at that pharmacy.

Use of one pharmacy also means that you are able to ask for and receive one up-to-date list of all your prescribed medications. You can also request that list include the name of the drug, the dosage, the directions, what it is prescribed for, and a description of its appearance. this list is very helpful to the person or their family caregiver, especially if medications have become disorganized or unclear at home. A written description of appearance is also important, as pills can change in shape and color.  Normally, when this happens, a sticker is put on the bottle noting the change, but this may not be noticed or legible. Not recognizing it and thinking that it is the wrong pill may lead to confusion and reluctance to take it. Vision loss and cognitive losses are the two leading reasons that people do not take their medications as ordered.

Using one pharmacy can also help track when refills are needed and are timely. It should be a red flag when a 30-day prescription lasts only 22 days or the opposite when the prescription is lasting too long. Forgetting to take medications, or forgetting that you have taken it and then taking more, are common errors.

When medications change or a hospitalization occurs, take your list with you and when discharged, the list needs to be updated. A pharmacist suggested that you can bring your hospital discharge papers with medication information to your pharmacy and your doctor to ensure good communication. In addition, it is your responsibility to keep any over-the-counter medications or supplements that are being taken on the list. You can call the pharmacy to schedule a time to review your medications and are encouraged to “brown bag” them, bringing them in, including over-the-counter medications.

Pharmacies can also help in the following ways:

  • The “child proof” cap on medication bottles can either act as a needed safety measure, or make it too difficult for the intended person to open the bottle. Depending on the need, easy open caps may be requested and usually require a one-time signature assuming responsibility for removing the safety measure.
  • Know that you can request a smaller supply than prescribed when trying a new drug, but understand that you may have the same co-pay. This should be discussed with your doctor, as you may need to try different medications for varying periods of time to know if they will be effective for you.
  • Co-pays on combination drugs may be higher than if prescribed separately. See if they can be prescribed separately if this is the case.
  • Drugs can be bubble-packed for those living at home to help with management of what to take and when.
  • Several new services and technologies exist to help with medication management at home if someone needs the assistance. Ask for suggestions.


Beth Belmore  |  2015

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