3 Things You Need to Do With Your Prescription Before You Leave the Pharmacy

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It can be scary when you discover a mistake made at your pharmacy in prescribing your medication. Not only is it dangerous, but it’s also potentially deadly!

Because the stakes are so high, you need to be on alert when it comes to your prescriptions.

This article is going to give you some advice from money expert Clark Howard on how to protect yourself.

Clark cites a New York Times report that says that many employees of major pharmacy chains are overworked and under so much pressure that they are getting prescriptions wrong. The report indicates that the high number of errors may be due to quotas that workers are expected to fill.

“I know that every pharmacy chain claims that they have systems in place to prevent this, but if that were true, why are so many prescriptions being filled wrong?” Clark says.

Do These 3 Things Before You Leave the Pharmacy

To lessen the chances that you’ll suffer from one of those mistakes, let’s go over three steps you can take to help the pharmacist — and yourself — by looking out for errors.

1. Talk to the Pharmacist

woman talking to pharmacist about her prescription

You should feel free to ask the pharmacist anything that can help allay your concerns, including these questions:

  • What dosage should I be taking?
  • How many times do I take this prescription per day or per week?
  • What are the side effects of this medication?

By asking these questions, you may help the pharmacist remember drug interactions and related information they’re required to tell you, Clark says.

2. Double Check the Prescription Name

Prescription pills

As unfortunate as it sounds, there are times when the pharmacist simply gives you the wrong medicine. Drug names can be very similar. That’s why you should always check the medicine’s name on the bottle label.


This is such a big issue that the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, a nonprofit devoted to preventing medication errors, publishes a List of Confused Drug Names.

As another safety check, look for your name and date of birth on the bottle. That way, you’ll make sure the prescription is meant for you and not for someone with a similar name.

3. Open The Bag and Look at The Pills

Check the description on your prescription bottle

You should get in the habit of making sure your pills pass the eye test: Before you leave the pharmacy, you need to open the bag and look at your pills.

“A lot of times you’ll recognize the shape and size of the pill,” Clark says. Some pharmacies even list on the packaging what the shape and size of the pill should look like.

Clark says a pharmacist told him long ago: “‘Remember, pharmacists are human. Always look at the prescription before you leave the store.’ And that’s what I do: I tear open the bag that they’ve just stapled, and I look at them to make sure they have the right thing.”

Bottom Line

Let’s acknowledge this: We all make mistakes especially in high-pressure situations. Again, you can help yourself by taking just a second to make sure your prescriptions were filled properly.

“What you and I can do is make sure that the medicines that are in the prescriptions are, as best as we can determine, the right one,” Clark says. “And if you can’t figure it out, this is why you open them before you leave the store.”

Clark says this is what you can tell the pharmacist: “Hey, this doesn’t look like what this med has looked like when I’ve taken it in the past. Do you mind verifying that this is the right thing?”

Not only will the pharmacist appreciate your bringing it to their attention, but you’ll give them an opportunity to educate you even more about your medicine. The conversation will either put your mind at ease or help you discover a mistake before it impacts your health.

Want to know more about how to get prescriptions for less? Check out these tips on how to save on prescription drugs.


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