Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Using multiple pharmacies to save money is not worth the risks

Saving money is on everybody’s mind nowadays. My wife will spend the time and energy to go grocery shopping at three different stores in one day to save a few bucks. I of course think she’s nuts but am glad that she does it.

But saving a buck or two in the short run is not always the best thing to do. Think of your medications. Do you buy them all at one pharmacy? Get prescription medications one place and over the counter medications at another? Or do you go to extremes and get vitamins, herbal products, and medications all from multiple places to get the best deal on each?

Though you may be saving a few dollars, you are putting your health at risk as well. There are many advantages to using just one pharmacy for all your prescription and over the counter product needs, including economics.

Pharmacies of different companies do not share medication records. If you are using multiple pharmacies, then there is a good chance that neither of them have a complete record of the medications you take. When you take your new prescription to one of the pharmacies, they can only do a drug interaction check on those medications they know you take. If your new medication has an interaction with a drug from another pharmacy, they will not know it, and neither you nor your doctor will get notified.

Using just one pharmacy means the pharmacist there can check your new prescriptions for drug interactions against all of your medications. Also, they are there to answer any questions you have about over the counter drugs, herbal products, and vitamins, all of which could have drug interactions with your prescription medications as well.

You may have to pay a bit more now, but the savings down the line can be great. A single drug interaction will often result in trips to the emergency room, days out of work, doctor visits and co-pays, and of course, another prescription or two.

The amount of competition today for your prescription business is great. This means that most pharmacies have competitive prices that are similar to each other. If you look closely, you might find that you really were not saving much money at all by using multiple pharmacies.

If you absolutely must use multiple pharmacies to save money, make sure you follow a few simple tips to keep it safe.

Make sure each pharmacy has a current and complete list of all medications, herbal products, and over the counter drugs you use.

Notify each pharmacy of all of your medical conditions and reasons for the medications you take. This will allow them to accurately and completely screen any new medication for drug interactions.

Now excuse me as I as go and check how much gas my wife uses driving to those three stores.

Michael Smith is a pharmacist and Clinical Coordinator in the Department of Pharmacy Services at The William W. Backus Hospital. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. If you want to comment on this column or other health topics, go to the Healthy Living blog at backushospital.org or e-mail Smith and all of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.

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