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5 Questions You Should Ask Your Pharmacist


Emcara Health Editors


September 21, 2023


Pharmacists do more than give out medicine. They’re medical experts who can keep you safe, save you money, and help improve your overall health.

Most people treat their pharmacist like an order-taker. You hand over your prescription form, and the pharmacist gives you medicine.

But pharmacists are actually an extension of your healthcare team. They have a clear view of your medical issues and the drugs to take. They know how they all work together and to spot any potential risks.

“Pharmacists are trained on how medicine works,” says Kerri T. Musselman, PharmD, BCACP, vice president of pharmacy care solutions at Emcara Health. “But to know that, we also have a basic understanding of how diseases process.”

“We also know what the patient has and hasn’t tried,” she says. “We can help them consider other options.”

“Many pharmacies now offer services once only found at a doctor’s office”, Musselman says. “Because every Emcara Health care team includes a pharmacist, members can receive these services in the comfort of their own home.”

Here are five questions you can ask your pharmacist to make sure you’re getting the most help from them.

Question #1: What conditions do you treat? 

These days, many pharmacies operate like urgent care centers. They can treat common conditions, run tests, and give vaccines that used to require a doctor’s visit. “Some states now allow pharmacists to treat flu, strep throat, and urinary tract infections,” says Musselman.

Understanding what your pharmacist can treat—either at the pharmacy or at home through Emcara Health—can save you the hassle of visiting a doctor.

Question #2: Will supplements or over-the-counter drugs interact with my prescription medications?

Vitamins and supplements, which fill up many shelves in the pharmacy, may seem safe and helpful for your health. But if you’re taking prescription medicines, there’s a chance they could cause problems when mixed together.

This mixing could reduce the effectiveness of your prescription drug or cause bad side effects.

“Before taking any supplement or over-the-counter (OTC) drug, ask your pharmacist about any potential interactions with your current medications,” says Musselman. “I had a patient who had 10 herbal supplements, and all of them interacted with their medications.”

Musselman says that negative interactions are most common with blood pressure and antibiotic medications.

Question #3: Is my medication less expensive if I pay cash?

Many patients assume that if you have health insurance, your prescriptions will be cheaper. But Musselman points out that it’s not always the case.

Paying cash, especially in conjunction with a prescription coupon platform like GoodRx or Optum Perks, may save you money. Your pharmacist will guide you to the best price.

Question #4: There’s a shortage of my medicine. Do you recommend other options?

Drug shortages are becoming more common. A 2023 report from the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs found that shortages increased by nearly 30 percent from 2021 to 2022, impacting 295 different drugs.

If you’re affected by a shortage, which Musselman has been dealing with “a lot lately,” your pharmacist can help you find a solution.

Question #5: Do you have a collaborative practice agreement?

A collaborative practice agreement is a formal deal where a licensed healthcare provider diagnoses, oversees patient care, and sends patients to a pharmacist. This agreement lets the pharmacist do certain patient care tasks.

“There are some states that allow pharmacists to work in a collaborative practice agreement where we can start, stop, adjust, modify, discontinue medications and order lab tests to help patients with chronic disease management,” says Musselman.

With an agreement in place, pharmacists can help patients manage chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension, asthma, COPD, and high cholesterol.

Learn how Emcara Health helps you stay healthy at home—and find out if you’re eligible--by calling 1-800-728-0901 from 9 am to 7 pm Monday to Friday.

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