If Your Drug Goes OTC

When a product goes from being prescription only to being available over the counter, your insurance company may stop covering it, even if you began treatment when the drug was only available by prescription. Contact them to find out, and ask if there is any other form of the medicine that is still covered. Also, see if your copay for the prescription form of the drug will be higher than the price you would pay out of pocket for the over-the-counter form.

More on Working With A Pharmacist to Lower Your Prescription Drug Prices

Patient counseling: There's one step more that you and your pharmacist should take together to increase the likelihood your medication will work for you and decrease the risk you'll waste money or jeopardize your health. That step is the patient consultation.

Before you leave the pharmacy with your medication, you should understand how to use your medicine properly for the greatest effect and without waste and know what signs to watch for that might indicate a problem. Here is the list of questions you should ask the pharmacist:

  • Am I allowed refills? How many? How often?
  • What should I do if I accidentally miss a dose of this medication?
  • Do I follow the dosing schedule around the clock, or do I only take the medication during waking hours?
  • Can I take this new medication at the same time I take my other medications?
  • Should I take it with food or between meals?
  • Is there anything I can do to prevent or minimize side effects?
  • How should I store this medication?
  • Can you provide me with a written copy of the instructions for using this medication?

Making sure you get this information can be one of the greatest money-savers available to you. If you don't take your medicine correctly, you risk not only wasting money but undertreating your condition (which may prolong your illness) or overdosing on your medication (which may have tragic consequences).

Fortunately, a major part of the pharmacist's job is patient consultation and education. Your pharmacist is there to answer your questions and provide advice on using medications safely and wisely. The pharmacist can explain and demonstrate proper use of medications and medication-delivery systems, such as eye ointments, eardrops, skin patches, sprays, nebulizers, and inhalers. (And before you leave the pharmacy, you should demonstrate back to the pharmacist the steps you should take in administering your medication and repeat your understanding of how and when to take the medication, to make sure you can do it properly once you're home.) The pharmacist can also help you work out a medication schedule and demonstrate the use of a medication organizer to help you better manage your drug therapy. Your pharmacist is also an excellent source of information and advice on nonprescription drug products. You can even ask your pharmacist for a more in-depth counseling appointment -- a special time set aside for a "brown-bag session." For this meeting, bring a bag filled with all of the medicines you are taking, including prescription and nonprescription drugs, herbs and/or other alternative remedies, vitamins, minerals, and any other supplements. Make sure you bring with you all of your medication containers and all of the dosage forms (pills, creams, ointments, eyedrops, sprays, skin patches, etc.) of the drugs and supplements that you use. During the session, you should review each one with the pharmacist to make sure you are only taking what you need and are doing so properly.

Getting the most out of your pharmacist is not your only consideration when lowering prescription drug costs. You must also learn how to choose the appropriate pharmacy. We'll help you make this decision in the next section.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.