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Get prescription information straight

POSTED: October 20, 2010 10:34 a.m.
Americans may be the most medicated people in the world, say statistics. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, half of all Americans take at least one prescription drug daily, while one in six take 3 or more. That means trips to the pharmacy are commonplace and individuals need to get the facts before they drop off their next prescription.
• Over-the-counter medications may be adequate: Oftentimes prescription drugs are just a higher dosage of an over-the-counter product. For example, a prescription-strength painkiller may be 500 mg, while an OTC pill is 200 mg. You may be able to simply take more of an OTC and save on prescription costs. Just check with the pharmacist for substitutions.
• Pharmacists know more about medications than your doctor. If you have a question about a medication, it is probably better to consult with your pharmacist. Your pharmacist has spent more time studying drugs than your doctor has and must hold a doctorate in pharmacy or a bachelor’s degree in pharmacology if they received their degree prior to 2004.
• Talk to your pharmacist. The pharmacist is required by law to counsel his or her customers. If a pharmacist seems too busy to talk, take your business elsewhere. Also, it’s wise to ask about prescriptions, considering half of the prescriptions taken in the U.S. are used improperly. Don’t just rely on the medication print-out; ask in person to double-check that you’re getting the right prescription.
• Some drugs get extra scrutiny. Prescriptions for pain killers as well as sleeping pills are often examined more carefully than other prescriptions. As a result, it’s harder to be approved for extra refills, regardless of how much you think you need more.
• Handwriting woes. A doctor’s handwriting is not just a mystery to the layperson. Sometimes pharmacists have trouble decoding the scribble, too. Electronic prescriptions can reduce errors, but few doctors use this method of prescribing medication.
• Speed up your time at the pharmacy. Monday and Tuesday evenings tend to be the busiest for pharmacies because people tend to drop off prescriptions over the weekend. Also, drive-through windows are convenient for customers, but not necessarily the pharmacist. They can get distracted, and that doesn’t bode well when concentration is needed to properly fill your script.
• Not all generic drugs are the same. Generics can save money and are very close to original formulas. But subtle differences between different brands of generics and the original medication can cause different reactions in the body. For blood thinners and thyroid drugs, for instance, you may want to stick with the name brand.
 

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