Knowing what to ask your pharmacist isn’t hard: what’s this medicine? How do I take it? Will it make me bleed from my eyeballs? These questions are just common sense. But the questions you should NEVER ask the pharmacist – now that’s a different issue. They don’t, for example, like questions about the location of the toilet paper. I found that out the hard way. I always figured hey, the pharmacist works here – he must know where the TP is! But from the look on his face I gathered that the title “Doctor of Pharmacy” and the lowly bog roll were not compatible. Lots of questions that should be common sense NOT to ask are asked all the time, so to ensure that your next trip to the neighborhood pharmacy is a pleasant one, avoid the following. Your pharmacist will thank you (and also won’t report you)!
· Are you sure about that? This question is posed by the customer who stares at the OTC bottle of medication she is unsure about, narrows her eyes suspiciously at the pharmacist and stares at the bottle again. This is AFTER a conscientious pharmacy tech has picked the product out especially for her, placed it in her hot little hand and then deferred to the pharmacist’s long and careful explanation of why it is the product of choice for her situation. “But the label says….” Yes, the label does say that, but as the pharmacist has already explained, there is an exception in your case. Whereupon the unbeliever turns on her heel and tosses the bottle next to the rawhide treats in the doggie aisle. Look – why did you bother to ask if you already knew? Don’t assume, unless you have a Pharm.D yourself, that you know more than the white-coat-wearing apothecary that stands before you. You don’t.
· I don’t really need to take these, do I? This is the kind of question that will make your pharmacist’s mouth drop open the first time she hears it. No – of course you don’t need to take these. You’ve been to a doctor who told you your heart is working like a swimming pool pump full of mud, come across town to drop off your prescription, then come back a few hours later to claim your little bottle of life-preserving medication. But you absolutely, positively do not have to take it. You might, however, want to check if your will is up to date.
· Can’t you just fill it? Now hear this: a pharmacist who is on the ball won’t fill a controlled medication even one day early. Ever. Physicians may call and “tell” the pharmacist to fill early but it will be refused. The reason? Pharmacy boards fine pharmacists for filling early. Your pharmacist’s license is on the line so he will check his state-controlled database of patient profiles if he doesn’t know or trust you. For him, this is a way of protecting his license. For the pharmacy board, it’s a way of protecting the public. If a pharmacist feels uncomfortable, he doesn’t have to fill. And he doesn’t have to explain to anyone, not even his CEO, why he feels uncomfortable. Your pharmacist is the licensed healthcare professional that keeps the pharmacy open – don’t screw with him.
· That long? Yes, Virginia, it will be that long. You’ve already waited in line more than 15 minutes this week at the bank, at the restaurant and at the movie theatre. But obviously giving that pill jockey behind the counter time to get your life-saving prescriptions right isn’t worth your time. There’s a lot more going on back there than pill-counting. You see, your insurance company won’t pay for the brand name drug you need without prior authorization. That means your pharmacist must pull on his boots and slog through telephone hell to listen to automated responses, wait on hold and be transferred several times just to be disconnected. When he does reach an actual human he attempts to track down your doctor only to find she is busy with an emergency. The doc on call has apparently been called by someone else just now so you’re going to have to come back later. Retail pharmacists are realists – they rarely tell anyone it will only be 15 minutes wait time. They’ll tell you 30 minutes minimum and one hour if it’s busy. Which it always is. Calling for a refill? Two hours, non-negotiable. No whining or pleading. If you don’t like the wait time you can go somewhere else….and wait there.
· How much Sudafed can I buy at once? Oh, brother. You’re what’s known as a “Sudafed Man” in pharmacist circles. You go from pharmacy to pharmacy looking for 12-hour pseudoephedrine, a very dangerous chemical, which you will take and mix with other dangerous chemicals to make methamphetamine, which you will sell to people to inject into their bloodstream to get high. You buy pseudoephedrine often and get away with it by 1.) always paying in cash (no paper trail) and 2.) presenting a fake driver’s license. That is, until your pharmacist notices that the laminate on your license is loose. Oops. Dirtbag alert. No Sudafed for you!
· Are you the pharmacist? The white coat and name tag that reads, “Joseph C. Blow, Pharm.D” notwithstanding, your pharmacist politely answers, “Yes, I am. Can I help you?” But you look so young, say you! “Thanks for the compliment! Now what can I do for you?” I need a pharmacist with more experience, say you (this problem with your GoLytely is highly technical), can I speak to someone else? Well, I’m the only pharmacist on duty, fella. You can come back in a few years if you like.
· Can I ring these up here? Oh, sure! Your pharmacist just loves it when you bring a truckload of foot powder and baby wipes back to ring up with your prescriptions! Listen, there’s a bunch of other registers out there in the store. You want it fast? Then let the pharmacy clear the line as fast as possible and take your cart to a cashier.
Oh, and another thing – when they say “45 minutes” it’s because at that very moment there is a 45 minute wait. No – not because you’re fat, or old, or remind them of their ex. It will take approximately 45 minutes to fill your prescription accurately. You see, it might really be closer to 30 minutes but then the phones go crazy, people jump in line with groceries and make-up, and John Q. Public wants to know where the jock itch is. After that the insurance company doesn’t want to cover and yes, your pharmacist knows this is not your problem. But be assured no one is in the back filing her nails or texting his girlfriend. The waiting room may look empty but there’s about 50 people waiting for their prescriptions to be filled in the next 20 minutes. This may look like a convenience store but it’s also a pharmacy – not the 7-11. If you really want it fast, next time call ahead. Otherwise, grab a magazine and sit down. Take a load off – there, now. Better?