November 22, 2021

Ask the Pharmacist: it's a question of your health

Frequently (and not so frequently) asked questions for your pharmacist. 

It never fails. You’ve just left your doctor’s office with a new prescription and all the questions you should’ve asked pop into your head. The good news is you have an additional resource you may not even be aware of–your pharmacist.

You may be surprised to learn how much your pharmacist can do for you. Over and above filling prescriptions, they provide:
-Selected point of care testing
-Medication therapy management
-Chronic condition management
-Over-the-counter medication expertise
-Prescription cost management

Pharmacists are doctors who’ve earned a PharmD (Doctor ofPharmacy) degree, making them a trusted resource for many healthcare questions that go beyond the obvious ones you may have about your medications.

We sat down with our very own pharmacist, Katrina Leung, to talk about common, and not-so-common, questions you should ask your pharmacist.  

Q:  Why am I taking this medication?  
A:  This isn’t asked all that often, but it should be. Many times patients are just following doctors’ orders without fully understanding them. It’s important that you as a patient know what a particular drug is intended to do so you are able to gauge to some degree whether or not it is being effective.

Q:  How should I take this medication?
Again, super important to ask. Most medication instructions are simple, but some are not. If a patient has any questions, ask! A medication is only effective if it’s taken properly.

Q:  What about side effects or unexpected symptoms?
Known side effects are frequently discussed. It’s important to be aware of them for two reasons. First, take the example of a medication that causes drowsiness. Obviously, there are things you shouldn’t do, like drive. But secondly, if you are experiencing a reaction that isn’t known, or is unusual, those are causes for concern. Even if it seems minor, like a rash. You could be experiencing an allergic reaction. Call your doctor or pharmacist if you are experiencing a reaction that you weren’t prepared for or if the reaction seems more severe than expected.

Q:  What interactions should I be aware of?
 Interactions are a part of every discussion with a patient. However, if you use multiple pharmacies, your pharmacist may not be aware of different medications you’re taking. The best advice here is to get all your prescriptions from the same pharmacy if possible. That way, your pharmacist can cross check drug interactions every time a medication is dispensed. If using the same pharmacy isn’t possible, keep a list of any over-the-counter or prescribed medications you’re taking that you can share with the pharmacists you use.

Q:  What should I do if miss a dose?  
A:  Ask this question! Remembering to take a new medication isn’t easy. And even when it becomes routine, people still forget. You do not want to wing it, so ask up front. Each medication could potentially have a different course of action to take when a dose is missed.

Additional questions you may not think to ask (but should)

The questions above serve you well any time you need a prescription filled. But here are a few that Katrina recommends you ask your pharmacist if and when the situation arises.

Q:  What’s the latest on vaccines?  
A:  The status with COVID-19 changes almost daily. It’s truly an unprecedented healthcare issue with new information coming out from so many different sources–some trustworthy and some not so much. Your pharmacist will have up-to-the-minute updates for not only COVID and flu vaccines but many others as well, including pneumonia, shingles and whooping cough. If you need a vaccine, we’ve got you covered!

Q.  How to save money on prescriptions?
Sticker shock at checkout for a new prescription is not uncommon. It’s okay to ask about how you can reduce the cost. There are a number of ways a good pharmacist can help, from looking for generics, to checking for manufacturer discounts or coupons, to possibly even finding an alternative medication. Bottom line for your bottom line is ask!

Q:  Should I see a doctor?
Everyone is over-scheduled and pressed for time. Getting into the doctor can mean hours away from work, sometimes appointments are weeks out and urgent care can mean a long wait to be seen. And you may not even need to see a physician. Go over your symptoms with your pharmacist. Many mild symptoms or conditions may be treatable with over-the-counter medications. If a condition persists, you definitely want to see a physician.

Q:  What should I take for conditions that don’t require a doctor’s visit?
 There are many, many over-the-counter products available. It’s not always easy choosing the best product for your set of symptoms based on the packaging or marketing. Sure, it’s not a prescribed medication but a good pharmacist is more than happy to listen to your symptoms and guide you to an effective OTC remedy.

Things to remember.

Ask, ask, ask! Your pharmacist can help you save time and money, but most importantly, they are a trusted resource for your health and wellbeing in ways you may be surprised to discover.

Pharmacists are an integral member of your healthcare team. It’s important to keep your pharmacist up to date about your care whenever you are filling a new prescription or seeking advice.

The last word.

“Filling a prescription should always be more than a simple transaction,” says Katrina. “A good pharmacist should engage with you about your care and be available to answer your questions. That’s especially important as prescription care becomes more virtual. At Gifthealth, our unofficial motto is skip the trip, not the service. We’ve built a national network of top-rated independent pharmacies so that people can have the convenience of delivery but still get the service of a traditional pharmacy.”

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