4 Things Your Pharmacist Isn’t Telling You

Roni Shye
Roni Shye, PharmD BCGP BCACP, is a licensed pharmacist in the states of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
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Dear Pharmacy Patient,

We need to talk. I’ve been noticing that you sometimes don’t pick up your refills. Often times, you’re shocked at the high price of your prescriptions. Other times, you’re frustrated because you have to wait a long time in line or your prescription isn’t ready.

Believe it or not, I get it. I want to help you be healthy, and it’s especially important to me that you can afford your prescriptions. So, I’ve prepared this list of insider tips to help you, your wallet, and your relationship with your pharmacist the next time you have to fill a prescription.

1) How to save money on prescriptions

Saving on your prescriptions can be complicated, but here’s a great place to start — ask me! Don’t be afraid to ask your pharmacist for help.  No one knows drug prices better than I do.

Here are five tips I use all the time:

  1. Price matching. Most pharmacies will match the cash price of a medication if you can find it cheaper somewhere else. Your pharmacy may need to confirm the price, so have the name and phone number of the less expensive pharmacy handy.
  2. Manufacturer discounts. If you take a brand-name drug, make sure to check its official website for a copay card before heading to your pharmacy. Double check the fine print though—unfortunately most cards can’t be used if you have Medicaid or Medicare.
  3. Prescription savings websites (like GoodRx!). These can help you save money on nearly every medication available. Whether you have insurance or not, you can often find lower prices, and it’s always a good idea to shop around.
  4. Mail-order pharmacies. Many insurance plans will offer a discount if you order your prescriptions through your plan’s mail-order pharmacy. Switching to a mail-order pharmacy usually requires getting a new prescription from your doctor and filling a three-month supply at a time.
  5. Membership-based stores. Membership-based stores like Costco or Sam’s Club tend to offer lower prescription prices, and you can use their pharmacies even without a membership.

2) How to refill prescriptions as quickly as possible

  1. Get your doctor to fill your prescription faster: To help get your refill as quickly as possible, I recommend my patients touch base with their doctor. As much as you would like to think the pharmacy has a direct line to call your doctor for refills, we really don’t! We call the same number as you, and 98% of the time we have to leave a message and wait for a returned call. You might need to schedule a visit before you can get a refill, but giving your doctor’s office a call directly will save you time.
  2. Notify the pharmacy before you finish your medication: So many things can go wrong right before you try to get a refill. You may run out of refills on your prescription, or your prescription could expire before you need your refill. Sometimes, insurance policies change and your drug may have stopped being covered or you may need prior authorization before it’s covered. Calling me or bringing your medication to the pharmacy when you have seven days left of it gives us a week to fix any of these issues and make sure we have your medication in stock.
  3. Get an emergency supply: Almost none of my patients know that if you run out of a medication before you can get a refill from your doctor, you may be able to get a three-day emergency supply while you wait for a proper refill. This will mostly apply to medications for serious, chronic conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma or COPD, heart conditions, and seizures.
  4. Avoid peak pharmacy times: I like making time to help you, but if you want the most attention from me and my staff, try to avoid coming to my pharmacy at peak times. It will make your trip faster and more pleasant. It can be hard to know when your pharmacy will be busy, but our most crowded days and times are: Mondays, weekend mornings/afternoons, the beginning of the month, and holidays (and the day before or after).

3) How to stop using unnecessary medications

Being overmedicated will not only put a dent in your wallet but can do your health more harm than good. Talk to your pharmacist if you are concerned that you you may be taking too many medications — we can help you get to the bottom of it.

Your pharmacy may offer medication therapy management (MTM), and it’s free for most patients with Medicaid or Medicare. Your pharmacist will sit down with you to discuss your medications in-depth. We can help you track down unwanted side effects, unnecessary medications, alternative and less expensive options, and much more.

4) Other lesser known pharmacy services

The role of a pharmacist can vary depending on one state to the next. In many cases though, a pharmacist can do much more than just fill your prescription.

A pharmacist in a retail or grocery store may offer:

A pharmacist in a hospital or clinic may offer:

Well, thanks for listening to me. When you’re waiting in line at the pharmacy or trying to get your refill straightened out, remember that I’m just trying to help. In fact, everyone at your pharmacy, including technicians and interns, is working hard behind the scenes from the time you drop your prescription off until the time you pick it up.

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