Get the Best Service at Your Pharmacy

Monday, September 14, 2009

While basic rules for getting a good service apply (namely being polite with the salesperson), there some additional ways to ensure you get the best (and safest) of service when at the pharmacy. These instructions apply to both over-the-counter drugs (which anyone can freely buy without consulting a doctor, e.g. Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Coldrex) and prescription medications (which can't be bought without a prescription, e.g. Diazepam and barbiturates). So here's how to help your pharmacist help you.

Before buying the drug, tell the pharmacist about any other drug you may be using, no matter how harmless it may be. This applies to birth control pills as well.
Know what your pharmacist needs to know:Mention any food allergies you might have, especially if you're lactose intolerant, even if the pharmacist doesn't specifically ask. Any liver and renal conditions should also always be brought up. Some mild antibiotics are OTC. When buying any of these, it's very important to inform the pharmacist if you have a history of hypersensitivity or abnormal reactions to any antibiotic.
Inform the pharmacist about the age of anyone else you are buying medication for. Basically, there are 4 age groups: Infant - 0 to 4, Child - 4 to 14, Adult - 14 to 60, and Old (or Geriatric) - 60+. However, always mention the exact age of the person.

Know the so-called "generic name" of the drug with a generic name "acetylsalicylic acid" may be sold under the brands Aspirin, Asperan, Acetisal, or many more. The best way to do this is to write down the generic name on a note card as many medications have very similar names. This will ensure that you do not take the wrong medication. By mentioning the generic name of a drug, you will help the pharmacist suggest a proper substitute. Know the "active ingredient" of your preferred medications. For example, Coldrex (a popular anti-flu preparation in Europe) consists of paracetamol (acetaminophen in the U.S.), caffeine, ascorbic acid (that's the chemical term for vitamin C), and other ingredients. Here the active ingredient is the paracetamol, and the others are mixed with it to improve its absorption by the system, or to alleviate the symptoms while the paracetamol works on the cause. If the pharmacist offers a specific medication for your condition, ask for alternatives with the same active ingredient. Often there are cheaper substitutes for expensive drugs, their only downside being their less famous manufacturer. If your local pharmacy has run out of a drug you use, you might be able to get by with the active ingredient alone. This is only advisable with OTC medications, however. In any multi-ingredient preparation, the proportion of the ingredients and the overall quantity of the mixture are carefully calculated and measured to assure they supplement each other's effects. For OTC preparations (like the Coldrex example above) you may settle for the major active ingredient alone. For any prescription medication, DO NOT take any of the active ingredients alone no matter the dose.

Verify the dosage. When buying prescription drugs, ask the pharmacist to write the appropriate dosage for each of them on the package. This way the pharmacist will be able to correct any possible mistake made by your doctor when filling in the prescription. This will also keep you from overdosing on a potentially lethal drug you may have mistaken for harmless. Each drug has a maximum daily allowance dose, indicated in the patient leaflet. To calculate your daily dosage, multiply the indicated active ingredient for a single tablet (e.g. 500 mg of paracetamol) by the number of prescribed administrations (e.g. 3). This gives you a daily dose 1.5 gr. (1500 mg). Consult your pharmacist and/or your doctor if the calculated prescribed daily dose exceeds the dose indicated in the leaflet. Though sometimes a doctor would intentionally prescribe an exceeding dose, it's most often a mistake in the prescription that can cost you dear! Never change (increase or decrease) the dose prescribed by your doctor or your pharmacist.

Make a quick calculation of how long the pack you just bought will last, and ask your local pharmacist to order a supply of the drug three days earlier. This will save a lot of frustration, because some prescription medications are not in a great demand, and your local pharmacy might not keep it in large stocks. Ask the pharmacist to double-count your medications, particularly if the medications were packed by another company or by a filling facility. Shortages are quite common. Before purchasing a new drug, or a substitute you haven't used before, make sure to read the patient leaflet enclosed for you. Check for possible contraindications, and make sure the indications match your symptoms or condition. Give your pharmacist feedback on any new drug you have been taking. It will help them in their job.

Never give or recommend the medications prescribed to you to anyone else, even if their symptoms are exactly like yours. Never give medications intended for adult use to kids. Though it's relatively easy to recalculate the single and daily doses of an adult version to match what is prescribed to your kid, DO NOT do it, unless you have no other option. A 30 minute drive to the next pharmacy that possibly has the children's form of the drug is always far less expensive than the health and - possibly - life of your child! Ask your doctor or pharmacist before stopping any medication to which you have adverse reactions.

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