Selecting the right pharmacist is as important as selecting the right doctor. A good pharmacist will let you know about potential side effects, drug-drug interactions and the availability of generic options if price is a concern. If you’re in a small town or with an HMO you don’t have much choice, although sometimes you can choose from different pharmacies on an HMO’s campus. So, how should you go about selecting a pharmacy? You have to sit down and assess your needs.
Obviously if you travel a lot and expect to need prescriptions refilled on the road, then a regional or national chain is the way to go. We’ve found that the big chains don’t always live up to their advertised promises of having your records available so readily, but they often do. Even a long commute might be reason to consider a national or regional chain, so you can get refills near your home, where you work, or somewhere in between.
If you work odd hours you may be stuck with a chain pharmacy, as they are the only ones in town that offer 24-hour service.The big downsides to the chains are:
– you don’t necessarily get a lot of personal service
– the pharmacists frequently move
– if they don’t carry a medication you need they may not be willing to order it
– we’ve heard about far more mistakes made by the big chain pharmacies than the small ones
When I lived in the Bay Area, Mouse and I would get our domestic prescriptions filled at Cortese Pharmacy. Vince and Frank Cortese have gone out of their way to help us with our meds and with supplements. How many other pharmacists would be willing to fax your prescription to Canada when your fax was flaking? They’ve ordered some of the wackier meds Mouse has tried. They have found translators for customers in this second-most multilingual area in the US. They deliver prescriptions. If they don’t have something on hand they’ll call around to other family-own pharmacies and check if it’s available in the network of local pharmacies and then go get it if someone else has it! I found out about them when asking around and was told how they came up with a supply of a medication that was no longer manufactured for one of their customers. It was the only med that worked for her. You think Walgreen’s would do that for you? They’ve called our doctors to double check on prescriptions that didn’t look right and had the correct prescription faxed over. Everything and more that is promised by the ads of the big pharmacy chains is delivered by your local family pharmacy. The Cortese family truly believes that you should take control of your own health, and not just be something to squeeze profit out of. You can see that from their web page. We all exchange Christmas cards, that’s the sort of relationship we’ve built! You’re far more likely to get that sort of attention and service from a local pharmacy than a national chain, let alone an online pharmacy.
However, Mouse did have problems with one small, family-owned pharmacy in San Luis Obispo. They were not willing to fill her prescriptions at all, because they did not cater to “the wrong type of people.” We presume that is the mentally ill. That stigma could even follow you into the pharmacy. This was an exception, but it is something that a small business can do.
Meanwhile, Dawn writes to let us know that she’s had a wonderful experience with one particular chain in her area.
I’ve had MUCH better luck and have been extremely happy dealing with an Osco/Sav-On Drug store as opposed to some of the neighborhood pharmacy or the Walgreens (BLAH!!!). I know all of the pharmacists & technicians by name and they know me by name as well. They do an excellent job of making sure records are current (i.e. drug no longer being taken, was stopped or replaced with…etc.) and have even helped me when I’ve been short of cash (given me a day or two supply until payday). It’s rare that they don’t have the prescribed med and when that does happen (due to a new script) they call around to sister stores to find out who has it in stock and has them hold it till I can get there.
They have even called me to let me know it is time for refills and ask if I would like them to get the prescriptions ready. They are also wonderful when I come in there at 8:30pm with new scripts for the kids after spending 3 hours in the psychiatrist’s/therapist’s office and the kids are bouncing off the walls. On those nights they will usually have all of the scripts ready in 10-15 minutes, explain all of the new meds to myself AND the kids and have us out the door, compared to Walgreens where I have had to wait for up to 1-1/2 hours or the local pharmacies which close at 5pm and rarely have the off-the-wall drugs that my kids tend to have prescribed them.
Her letter points out some things that I left out. D’oh.
Mileage always varies, even with pharmacies and pharmacists.
The downsides to the family pharmacies include their often limited selection in medications and their limited hours. My perception of oddball working hours have definitely been skewed by years of working at home and living alone.
You know you’re really crazy when you’re on a first-name basis with everyone at the drug store. You know you’re really crazy like me and Mouse when you’re exchanging Christmas cards with them.
One big concern for many of us is the cost of our meds. When I bought Risperdal from Canada and gout the 0.5mg tablets then cut them in half I paid one-twelfth what it would cost to buy 0.25mg tablets here in the US. Sure, I could have bought the 0.5mg tablets here, but that just goes to show you that by applying multiple tactics you can save a lot of money. Shopping around can make a difference. For buying drugs from a pharmacy you can walk into, CostCo pharmacies do have lower drug prices. You don’t even have to be a member to fill a prescription. Really. I’ve read contradictory information about payment options, so call your local CostCo about what payments they accept, as well as what meds they have and what they cost. As for other big membership club discount chains, I don’t have a clue if they even have pharmacies or not. If there’s one near you, call them and ask what their policies are and price your prescriptions.
Always request a PI sheet whenever you get a new medication. The PI sheets are your proof of purchase that you took a medication. You’ll need them to help organize your medical records and in determining if any new side effects you’re experiencing are due to a particular medication. The PI sheet lets you double-check things like when you should be taking your meds, with meals or between meals, and if there are any drug-drug interactions. A good pharmacist will always be able to get you the real PI sheet for your medications.
That should get you on your way. Don’t just settle for some big chain pharmacy because you see their ads on TV and they happen to be part of some huge shopping complex you go to for other reasons. Take control, do a little research and you might find better prices and/or service elsewhere. Don’t just be a cog in some big corporation’s money-making machine. The more in charge you are of things, the less crazy you’ll feel. Shop around. Changing pharmacies is a lot easier than changing doctors, even if the pharmacy is just as important.