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

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If you’ve been prescribed medication for an illness or chronic condition, you know how crucial it is to stick to a schedule. It’s even more important to make sure the pills you’re taking are the correct ones and the right dosage.

Even one mistake can not only be dangerous, but 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.

Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP), an organization that advocates for patients rights and medications, says that among the most common errors when it comes to pharmacies dispending prescriptions are:

  • Dispensing the wrong medication.
  • Dispending the wrong dosage strength or dosage form.
  • Failing to identify drug interactions.

“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 week?
  • What are the side effects of this medication?
  • Could this medication interact with my other medications?

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 are 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? Read our guide on how to save on prescription drugs.