Dear Pharmacy Patient:
We need to talk. See, I’ve been noticing that you sometimes don’t pick up your refills, or you’re shocked at the high price of your prescriptions. I can see your frustrated face when you’re waiting in line, and I know it’s aggravating when your prescription isn’t ready.
Believe it or not, I want to help. I went to school and spent years studying, and not just so I could wear this white coat. I took this job because I care. I want to help you be healthy, but it’s also important to me that you are able to afford your prescriptions.
So I’ve prepared this list of 7 insider tips that can help you, your wallet and your relationship with your pharmacist the next time you’re filling a prescription. Read on.
1. Five hidden secrets to saving money at the pharmacy
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 5 tips I use all the time:
- 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.
- Manufacturer discounts. If you take a brand name drug, make sure to check the 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.
- Prescription savings websites (like GoodRx!) 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.
- Mail order pharmacies. Many insurance plans will offer a discount if you order your prescriptions through your plan’s mail order pharmacy. This usually means getting a 3-month supply at one time, and you may need a new prescription from your doctor.
- Membership clubs like Costco or Sam’s Club also tend to offer lower prescription prices, and you can use their pharmacies without a membership.
2. The best way to refill your prescriptions
Don’t want any hiccups when you come in to pick up your meds? Try this: call me or bring your bottle to the pharmacy when you have 7 days of medication left. This is super important, because there are so many things that can go wrong, and a week gives us time to fix any issues like:
- You are out of refills
- Your prescription has expired (even though you still have refills left)
- Your medication now requires a prior authorization from your insurance
- Your medication is no longer covered by your insurance
- The pharmacy needs to order your medication
3. You can get a 3-day emergency fill if your prescription has run out
Almost none of my patients know that if you do run out of medication before you can get a refill from your doctor, you may be able to get a 3-day supply while we wait. This will mostly apply to medications for serious, chronic conditions, like:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Heart conditions
- Asthma or COPD
4. How to get your doctor’s office to fill your prescription faster
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, the patient, and 98% of the time we have to leave a message and wait for a returned call.
To help get your refill as quickly as possible, I recommend my patients also touch base with their doctor. You might need to schedule an annual visit or complete blood work before you can get a refill, and giving the office a call directly will save time.
5. 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 or MTM, and it’s free for most patients with Medicaid or Medicare. Your pharmacist will sit down with you face-to-face or over the phone 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.
6. When to avoid the pharmacy
I like you and I want to make 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:
- Weekend mornings and afternoons
- The beginning of the month
- On a holiday (or the day before or after)
7. There are other pharmacy services that you didn’t even know existed
The role of a pharmacist can vary a lot depending from 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:
- Advice about over-the-counter medications
- Medication therapy management (MTM)
- Blood pressure screenings
- Cholesterol screenings
- Hepatitis C screenings
A pharmacists in a hospital or clinic may offer:
- Anticoagulation clinics
- Team-based care with your doctors and nurses
- Chart review
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.