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Pharmacies - information for consumers

Learn about when to talk to your pharmacist, patient counseling, filling prescriptions, medication safety, and more.

Talking with your pharmacist

We encourage you to speak with your health care professionals, including your pharmacist. Taking a few minutes to talk with your doctor and pharmacist about the medications you are taking can play a significant role in your health care.

Before taking any medication

Tell your health care provider and pharmacist about all prescription and nonprescription medicines that you take and why you take them. Be sure to tell them about known allergies to any medications or if you have problems taking any medicine. Also let them know if your are, or could be, pregnant and if you are a smoker.

Getting your prescription filled

When you have a prescription filled for yourself or a family member, ask your pharmacist these questions:

  • What is the name and strength of the medication?
  • Why am I using the medication?
  • How should I use the medication, how often, and what time of day?
  • Will this medication interact with other medications I am using, including nonprescription medications?
  • What are the common side effects that may occur? What do I do in the event that I experience a side effect?
  • What do I do if I miss a dose?
  • How should I store my medications?
  • Should this medication be refilled?

It is important that you take medications as prescribed to avoid potentially serious, disabling health complications.

To avoid harmful drug interactions, get all your prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy. Or keep an accurate list of the medications you are taking and review it with your health care providers, including your pharmacists, if they are not familiar with your medical history.

Patient counseling

Pharmacists are medication experts. One of their most important roles is to provide you with information about your medication.

Studies show that 83% of all prescription errors are discovered during patient counseling.

When presenting a new prescription, the pharmacist or designated person must offer to discuss issues that may be significant for your health and safety.

If you choose to accept this offer, the pharmacist will review your medical history for relevant information, such as possible drug interactions and known allergies, and describe the proper use of your medication. The Board requires pharmacists to offer consultation about medications and the conditions which could result or be affected by the use of these medications to avoid injury and reduce medication errors. You may refuse this offer to counsel.

Filling prescriptions

Getting Your Prescription Filled Online

If you are buying a prescription online, you you may wish to consider purchasing it from one of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy's Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites. For more information, please read the "Internet Pharmacy" section of the NABP's home page.

Getting Your Prescription Filled Abroad

The federal government has created guidelines for travelers purchasing medications abroad. For more information, please go to the FDA Import Program.

Importation of Prescriptions

Consumers should also be aware that there are strict regulations governing the importation of drugs. The United States Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. sections 331(d), and 355(a)), which is administered by FDA, prohibits the interstate shipment (which includes importation) of unapproved new drugs. For more information, please go to the FDA Import Program.

Medication safety tips

What should you look for when receiving a prescription medication?
  • Always accept the offer to speak to a pharmacist on each new prescription. Pharmacists are required to provide counseling upon request by the patient and are required to make an offer to counsel on each new prescription.
  • Look at the label
    • Is this your medication?
    • Does your name appear on the label?
    • Is it the right medication?
  • Open the bottle
    • If it looks different ask the pharmacist why?
    • Be familiar with both brand and generic names of your medication
    • Know the size, shape and color of your medication
  • Be sure you know the purpose and dose of your medication. Know how often you should be taking it and whether you should take it with or without food.
  • Ask if there are any side effects, or whether you should avoid any activities, foods or other medications (like supplements or over the counter remedies)
  • Ask what you should do if you miss a dose. It is often dangerous to double up on doses. Pill reminders are often helpful.
  • Try to get all your medications at the same pharmacy. This allows the pharmacist to cross-check your records for medication interactions.
  • Tell your pharmacist what other medications you are taking, including herbal remedies.
What should you do if you think there has been an error in your medication?
  • Never take any medication if you suspect an error has been made
  • Immediately contact the pharmacy and ask to speak to the pharmacist. Alert them that you believe there may be an error with your medication.
  • After speaking with the pharmacist, if you believe a mistake has taken place, call your physician right away

Please visit our Complaint Resolution page where you can download a Complaint Form. You can also contact the Board of Registration in Pharmacy's Complaint Department at (617) 973-0800 for help in filing a complaint. The Board usually requires patient's signature to authorize release of their pharmacy medication records.

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