When I was asked to write a blog post on the “Top 5 things your pharmacist wants you to know,” my mind initially went to David Letterman and his famous Top Ten Lists. I imagined counting down ridiculous pharmacy tropes in a witty and hilarious fashion with Paul Shaffer adding the color commentary. Alas, my mind continued to wander while I tried to compile a satisfactory list that encompassed all the things I thought everyone should know. I tried to think of the most common questions that I get and incorporate them, broadly, into 5 things I’d like everyone to know.
Returning Your Meds to the Pharmacy
In general, once a medication has left the pharmacy it cannot be returned. Knowing this, make sure you pay attention to what you’re picking up at the counter and make sure it is what you are expecting before you buy it and head home. In the same vein, expired meds cannot be returned to the pharmacy unless they specifically have a designated bin or way of disposing them. Most retail pharmacies do not have a way to dispose of old, expired, and unused mediations and therefore will not take it back. If you have old, expired, or unused medications that you’d like to get rid of, try calling your local police or fire department—quite often they will take and dispose of them correctly or they will be able to tell you when the next drug take-back event will be.
Storage – No Bathroom!
- Store your medications in a dark, dry, cool place, which translates into—No Bathroom! If you have a medicine cabinet in your bathroom, do not store your medicine in it. The heat and humidity from showering makes for a terrible environment for most medications, even if they are in a plastic bottle with an impenetrable, child proof lid.
Insurance is a beast unto itself; it can be incredibly complicated and in certain instances, time consuming. I won’t bore you with some anti-insurance company rant, I’ll just leave you with a few concepts that will hopefully clarify how insurance works in the pharmacy. There are basically 3 types of insurance: private, Medicare, & Medicaid. The only difference between these three is who pays for them. All prescription insurances will have some sort of formulary, or list of drugs that they will cover. If your doctor writes a prescription for a drug that isn’t on your insurance’s formulary, they’re not going to pay for it (at least initially, there are ways to appeal this). Also, in general, most insurances won’t pay for items that are available over the counter, even if your doctor writes a prescription for them.
Over the Counter Meds/Herbals/Vitamins – Consult your Pharmacist
- Don’t assume that something is safe just because you can go into a pharmacy and buy it straight from the shelf. Make sure to read the directions before taking any over the counter medication and ask your pharmacist about any interactions if you are taking any other medications. Also, make sure to discuss herbal supplements, vitamins, and homeopathic drugs with your pharmacist before taking them. With these types of medications, don’t assume that they’re safe or effective and don’t believe everything you read on the internet or see on tv. These medicines are not regulated in the same way as over the counter and prescription medications and do not have to be approved by the FDA before they can be sold.
Know Your Friendly Neighborhood Pharmacist
- Make sure to consult your pharmacist and take advantage of their knowledge. Pharmacists go to school to learn about medications and are uniquely positioned to answer any of your questions or concerns about medications. Compared to most other healthcare professionals we are incredibly accessible and don’t require an appointment or an Act of Congress to speak to us. And, we want to help!