While you may regularly visit a pharmacy, you might not know everything that happens there. Do you wonder who is filling your prescriptions? Should you use generic drugs? Switch pharmacies? And when is the best time to call in your prescription? Here are some tips for getting best best service at the pharmacy.

Pharmacists know more about drugs than even your doctor, making them a great resource for chronic pain sufferers. But these founts of medical wisdom are also working longer hours and filling more prescriptions than ever (a record 4.3 billion in 2014).

The Reality of Today’s Pharmacies

Most people are unaware that pharmacists work very long hours that could affect the quality of service. It’s the rule in drugstores for pharmacists to work 14-hour days, often without a lunch break. And many places, especially chain drugstores, require their pharmacists to meet hourly quotas, filling prescriptions in 15 minutes or less.

So it may be best to use an independent pharmacy. They don’t usually have to meet quotas like the big chain pharmacies and they’re small enough to offer personal service.

If you don’t already have a good relationship with your pharmacist, find one who takes the time to get to know you and is available answer your questions and concerns.

The Truth About Generics

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Generic drugs seem like a great bet, right? They’re the same drug as the brand-name medication, only cheaper. In 2013, generics saved patients $193 billion.

But in reality, most generic drugs aren’t the same as their branded counterparts. They can have different binders and fillers, they’re not tested by the FDA like name brands, and most are mislabeled, using the name-brand medication’s performance data. In fact, only an “authorized” generic drug is exactly the same as the name brand.

Talk with your pharmacist about generic drug options and what potential reactions could occur with a generic (for example, underdosing, overdosing or allergic reaction) and then monitor yourself for the symptoms. Contact your doctor immediately if you experience any negative reaction.

Getting the Best Service

You know the drill: A pharmacy sends out an incentive – a coupon, a gift card, a voucher for free gasoline – and you transfer your prescriptions.

While moving to a new pharmacy can save money, it can also cause serious issues, like putting you at risk for medication errors. Up to 50% of these errors happen during transition and each time you move a medication, it increases the chances that an error will occur (pharmacists call these “misfills.”)

That said if you’re not getting good service, find a better pharmacy. Pharmacists are required by law in most states to answer your questions; if they don’t have time for you, move on. Also consider switching if they’re regularly out of your medication or, on the whole, you’re paying too much (especially if you pay out of pocket).

Here’s a tip for getting the best care: Avoid filling prescriptions on Monday and Tuesday evening, when most people come to the druggist. Instead, call in your refill first thing in the morning. Most pharmacies aren’t backed up in the morning and can fill a prescription more quickly.

And if you’re looking to spend less at the pharmacy, check out our article on 8 Ways to Save on Prescriptions.

More Helpful Tips

Skip the drive-thru. Because of the pace required to work a drive-thru, accuracy often takes a back seat. Your best bet? Call in the prescription several days in advance and then go into the store to pick it up.

Order meds before you run out. If you’re on a maintenance drug and are out of refills, call your doctor at least a week before you run out. Doctors can’t always get back to your pharmacist in the same day, and missing a day or waiting too long between doses can be harmful.

The secret is simple: Staying with one pharmacy is the best way to get the top service. Not only do you get to know your pharmacist, they have a complete record of all your medications, can offer information and advice based on your individual needs and are less likely to cause accidental medication errors.