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Prescription for Success: A Guide to Leaving the Pharmacy Without a Headache

Updated on November 12, 2011

Be Prepared.

Be sure that you have all information needed for the person who is filling the prescription. Demographics such as name, date of birth, address, phone number, as well as any drug allergies the patient may have will be needed. You will need an up-to-date insurance card ready, and possibly the cardholder’s social security number. In the all-to-frequent case of an illegible signature, be sure to know the name of the doctor who wrote your prescription. This information is not only required to fill the medication, but is useful in case the pharmacy needs to contact the doctor.

To help save money, check with the doctor about receiving free samples or vouchers for medications before you buy a prescription that may end up being changed or discontinued. If you don’t have insurance, shop around for the best prices and ask your pharmacy if they will match the price. Doing your research in advance will save both time and money.

Know Your Insurance.

Insurance companies usually offer a set discount or copay for brand or generic medications. The pharmacy will not be able to tell you the price until the insurance has been billed. However, companies will usually provide this information to you upon enrolling or you can simply call them and ask before heading to the pharmacy. If the price of your prescription is higher than what you expected, it could be that the drug is not on their formulary list. Insurances provide lists of preferred drugs and if your medication is not on that list, the price may be higher or the drug may require prior authorization from your doctor.

Allow Ample Time.

If your prescription is out of refills or it has expired, be sure to call your pharmacy a few days before your bottle is empty. Doctors are very busy and because of this, most offices will ask the pharmacy to allow 24-48 hours to refill prescriptions. It is good practice always to call your pharmacy five or six days before it runs out. This will allow time to get it approved by your doctor, and hopefully avoid going without medications.

When picking up your prescriptions, know exactly what you are picking up. Let the clerk know up front how many medications you are expecting along with the first and last names of the patient. Knowing what medications and doses you are currently taking is crucial to you and the pharmacist.

Also, check your prescriptions before you leave the pharmacy. Make sure it is the correct medication for the right patient, the right quantity and check to see if the insurance was billed. In most states, it is illegal for the pharmacy to accept a returned medication once it has left the pharmacy.

A Final Word.

It is important to remember that pharmacies are working with hundreds of patients' prescriptions throughout each day. They want to help the patient in a timely manner but not all problems are avoidable. Be patient with the staff and understand that not everything is within their control. Also, feel at ease to talk with your pharmacist about any questions or concerns you may have. Keeping these tips in mind should make your pharmacy experience go smoother and leave you with confidence in your health care provider.


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