Your Pharmacist Needs a Complete List of Your Medicines, Even Those Purchased Elsewhere


You may have heard from your doctor or pharmacist that it's important to fill all your prescriptions at the same pharmacy. This way, your pharmacist can keep a complete list of all the medicines you take. Some medicines can cause problems if you take them while taking other medicines at the same time. So, your pharmacist needs to know all the medicines you take to be sure it's safe to take them together.

Some people suggest shopping around or buying your medicines over the Internet to get the lowest price. Some large pharmacies offer a 1-month supply of certain generic medicines for just $4. As expected, this encourages you to purchase whatever medicines you can for $4. But you may get the rest of your medicines from your usual pharmacy. Insurance companies want to keep their costs down. So they sign up with mail-service pharmacies and encourage you to buy all long-term medicines through the mail. The insurance company allows you to buy a 3-month supply of medicine from the mail-service pharmacy for the same co-pay as a 1-month supply from your community pharmacy. But you still need to get your prescriptions for short-term use from your community pharmacy. This includes antibiotics, pain medicine, and many other medicines used to treat a short-term illness or injury.

Usually, a pharmacist checks that your doctor has prescribed a safe dose of the medicine and that it can be taken with your other medicines. But if your mail-service pharmacist knows some of the medicines you take, and your community pharmacists know others, none of them may know all the medicines you take. Therefore, they might not pick up a serious problem with how your medicines react together in your body.

Ideally, you should fill all of your prescriptions at the same pharmacy. But in real life, this may not be possible or something you choose to do if lower-cost medicines are available at different pharmacies. Still, you can take the steps listed below to reduce the risk of problems.

  • Keep a current list of all your medicines, including herbals, vitamins, over-the-counter medicines, and prescription medicines.
  • Ask the pharmacist at your usual community pharmacy to keep a complete list in the pharmacy computer of all the medicines you take, even if certain medicines are not purchased at that store. Provide a list of all your medicines to your pharmacist, and then let him or her know if any new medicines are purchased from another pharmacy.
  • If you purchase some of your medicines from a mail-service pharmacy, provide an updated list of all the medicines you take—even those not purchased through the mail—each time you send prescriptions to be filled.
  • If you have computer access, there are free programs on the Internet that you can use to check whether your medicines will cause problems when they react together in your body. (Bad reactions are called serious drug interactions.) Our MedSafetyAlert! program is one example. These programs sometimes warn about a possible reaction that may not be serious or likely to happen. So the information from these programs should not cause you to stop taking your medicine until you have sought advice from your doctor.
Created on March 1, 2008

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