13 Things Your Pharmacist Won't Tell You

What to bear in mind the next time you visit the pharmacy counter.

1. Don't try to get anything past us. Prescriptions for painkillers or sleeping aids always get extra scrutiny.

2. We're not serving fries in here.
I'd think twice about using a drive-through pharmacy. Working there distracts us-not a good thing when it comes to pharmaceuticals.

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Generics are a close match for most brand names. But I'd be careful with blood thinners and thyroid drugs, since small differences can have big effects.

4. Sometimes we can't read the doctor's handwriting either. E-prescribing can help, but as of 2006, fewer than 20 percent of prescriptions were being electronically transmitted.

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5. I hate your insurance company as much as you do. "Even if something's working for you, the insurance company may insist you switch to something else," says pharmacy owner Stuart Feldman."I'm stuck in the middle trying to explain this to customers."

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6. We can give flu shots in most states.

7. A less-qualified pharmacy technician may have actually filled your prescription. Currently, there is no national standard for their training and responsibilities.

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8.
We're human … and we make mistakes (about two million a year). Ask if we use a bar-code system to help keep us from pulling the wrong drug off the shelf or giving the wrong strength of the right drug.

9. I can give you a generic refill that's different from the one you started with. When in doubt, ask. Online resources like cvs.com let you double-check your pill.

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10. We're not mind readers, and there's not some big computer database that tracks your drugs and flags interactions for pharmacists everywhere. Use one pharmacy. If you start using a new one, make sure we know what you're taking.

11. Avoid the lines. It gets busy Monday and Tuesday evenings, since many new prescriptions and refills come in after the weekend.

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12. Look into the $4 generics offered by chains like Target, Kroger, and Wal-Mart. And it can't hurt to ask your pharmacy if it will match the price.

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13. Yelling at me won't help. If I can't reach your doctor and/or insurance company to approve a refill, there's nothing I can do about it. "It's frustrating," says pharmacist Daniel Zlott, "but I'd be breaking the law in some states if I gave it to you."

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Sources:
Dr. Daniel Zlott, oncology pharmacist, National Institutes of Health; Cindy Coffey, PharmD; Greg Collins, pharmacy supervisor, CVS/pharmacy, California; Stuart Feldman, owner, Cross River Pharmacy, New York

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