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Ask an Expert: Answers to Common Questions at the Pharmacy Counter

Pharmacists love it when patients ask questions! It is an important way to ensure you are receiving the best care and treatment possible. Here are answers to some of the most common questions that pharmacists receive.

How long will a pharmacy hold my prescription?

Policies vary widely by pharmacy, but often the pharmacy staff will hold a patient’s prescription for up to five to ten days. If it is not picked up, they’ll return the medication to stock and fill the prescription again if the patient requests it, provided that the prescription is still valid. If it is not, a new prescription will be required.

Can a family member or friend pick up my prescription from the pharmacy?

Generally yes, provided they are over 18 and are involved in your immediate care.

Many pharmacies use online systems or phone systems to make it easier for one family member to register and manage medications for multiple people – for example, if mom or dad needs to coordinate prescriptions for two children and a home-bound grandparent. Ask about the procedures at your local pharmacy.

Will the pharmacist give me a generic version of my mediation? Or do I need to request it?

When you give your pharmacist a prescription, it is considered both safe and legal for your pharmacist to dispense a generic equivalent drug for the brand name drug listed on the prescription ( unless your doctor specifically says not to). And that is a good thing, because sometimes the cost of a generic equivalent drug is 80 to 85 percent lower than the brand name product. So, you will get a product that is proven to work just as effectively as the brand name drug for significantly less money.

However, your pharmacist cannot dispense a therapeutically equivalent drug in place of a brand name drug unless your doctor agrees to the change. In this case, your doctor must write you a new prescription for the therapeutically equivalent medication. See our post on the distinction between generic bioequivalent and therapeutic equivalent drugs to learn more.

Can I get my prescription refilled early?

It depends on why you are requesting the early refill. If you need to fill your prescription more than a few days early due to travel, theft (your purse was stolen with the pill bottle inside), or a weather emergency (e.g. before you evacuate for a hurricane), then your pharmacist and insurance company may be able to help.

If you are asking for an early Rx refill for another reason, or if you take a controlled substance, it is less likely you’ll be allowed.

Can I fill my prescription out-of-state?

It depends. In most cases it is up to the pharmacist, who may want to call your doctor to confirm before filling the prescription outside your home state. Often, large retail chain stores that use a central computer system can access your profile from another store in the chain, even in different states. You may need to “transfer” the prescription to the new store and “transfer” the prescription back to your home pharmacy for the next fill.

If you take a controlled substance , it is less likely that you will be able to fill a prescription out-of-state, due to the risk of abuse.

Can a doctor post-date my prescription?

In some cases, but not for a controlled substance.

Will pharmacies remind me when it's time to refill my medication?

If you ask them to, yes! Today many pharmacies have great online systems that may be used to set up refill reminders or even automatic refills, so you will be notified when your prescription is ready for pick-up without having to call first. Ask what your options are at your local pharmacy counter.

There are also many free pharmacy apps available to help you keep track of your Rx medications and refill dates.

Can I get any discounts on my prescription medications?

Absolutely. There are many different ways to find discounts on your prescriptions, including free drug discount cards , government programs, and manufacturer coupons. It’s always a good idea to ask your pharmacist if any coupons or discounts are available for your medication.

You can also save money on your medications by comparing prescription prices at several local pharmacies before filling the drug. Using the FamilyWize Drug Price Lookup Tool , you can find the pharmacy that will fill all your prescriptions at the best overall price. Filling all of your prescriptions at the same pharmacy saves you time and it also allows the pharmacist to know all the medications you are taking, which lowers the risk of dangerous interactions and improves overall patient care.

Do all pharmacies accept prescription discount cards?

Most major chains and many local, independent pharmacies do accept Rx discount cards, but the best way to know for sure is to ask your pharmacist.

This post is part of our “Ask an Expert” blog series by Ken Majkowski, Pharm.D, the Chief Pharmacy Officer at FamilyWize. Ken brings more than 40 years of healthcare experience to the FamilyWize team, including 14 years of clinical pharmacy experience in retail, hospital, and home care. Read his full bio here .

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