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How to Fill a Prescription

There are lots of small but significant responsibilities you take on as you become an adult: Doing your own laundry. Making sure you keep the gas gauge off "E." Filling a prescription.

OK, so maybe that last one isn't one of the first things that come to mind. Still, it is an important step toward independence. It means you're starting to take responsibility for your own health care.

In the Doctor's Office

The prescription process starts in the doctor's office or at the health clinic. Tell the doc if you're taking any medicines — even over-the-counter (OTC) medicines like vitamins or herbal medicines. With some medicines, there's a risk that one might cause problems with the other (known in the medical profession as an interaction). For example, certain prescription medicines can make birth control pills less effective.

Speaking of birth control, your doc will probably ask about birth control or whether you use alcohol or illegal drugs. It may seem awkward to talk about these topics, but your doc needs to know if you've taken anything that might interact with the prescription medicine. Don't worry, though — your doctor isn't there to judge you or report back to your parents. Many doctors find a way to speak privately with teen patients so they can share confidential information. So don't hesitate to talk openly.

Your doctor may hand you a written prescription to take the pharmacy of your choice. Lots of docs submit prescriptions electronically, though — in which case your doc will ask which pharmacy you'd like to use.

If you'll be away for a while, you might want to fill your prescription at a large chain pharmacy. Most chains use one prescription database for all their stores, so you can pick up prescriptions at different stores in the same chain.

Before you fill your prescription, find out if it's covered by insurance. Some medicines may not be. For example, your insurance company may not cover certain acne medicines or your doctor may have to contact the insurance company to get these approved. If that's the case, you'll want to know so there are no surprises at the pharmacy. Often the number to call is on the back of your insurance card.

Picking Up Your Prescription

If your health insurance covers prescriptions, take your prescription card to the pharmacy. When you first fill a prescription, the pharmacy staff might ask you to leave your card for a while so they can verify your insurance. You may be asked to show your state-issued identification for some medicines, so keep it handy.

The staff will probably ask if you have questions for the pharmacist or ask you to sign a waiver if you don't. Now's your chance to ask any questions you might have thought of since leaving the doctor's office — such as the best time of day to take your medicine, whether it needs to be taken with food, etc.

If the pharmacy seems busy or you don't want to ask about something personal in front of other people, you can always call the pharmacy and ask to speak to the pharmacist after you leave. Mention that you just filled your prescription there and you have questions.

Your prescription may come with an information sheet from the manufacturer, and probably one from the pharmacy too. These offer useful information on how best to take that particular medicine and also any side effects to watch out for.

If you notice any side effects while taking a medicine — even if you think they're not serious or important — let your doctor know. You also can ask your pharmacist for advice. Pharmacists are trained in the science of how medicines work and can offer lots of useful advice.

Reviewed by: Elora Hilmas, PharmD, BCPS
Date Reviewed: 15-10-2018

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