As a regulatory requirement, patients are offered the opportunity to speak to a pharmacist about medications they are picking up.  But declining that offer could be declining discussion of important medication safety warnings.


“Would you like to speak with the pharmacist regarding these medications?”

Chances are you have heard this question before. I hear patient’s decline that offer more times than accept it.  You know the routine — you are picking up your kids or need to get dinner and want to swing by the pharmacy and keep the interactions as brief as possible since you are short on time. But this approach in declining the offer to counsel can mean you miss out on key safety information about medicines for you or your loved ones.

Take the example from California where a court ruled that it is not the pharmacist’s duty to warn a patient of dangerous side effects if the patient declines the offer to speak to the pharmacist.

We want you to be safe and still respect your time at the pharmacy counter! So we compiled a list of questions you should be asking at pick-up.

1. What is this medication for, and can you write it down?

Sounds so simple but many patients don’t actually know what each of their medications they are taking are for. Some have a general idea for example “I’m on blood pressure medications” but have challenges picking which ones those are out of their list.  Ask your pharmacist to print a list of your current medications and have them write down which each one is for (ex. atorvastatin is “for cholesterol and blood vessel protection”).  

Then take it a step further — take a picture of the list on your smart phone for future reference.  You can also purchase a medication log book that allows you to keep accurate medication records with you for updating at any time.  Bring this to your doctor visits to make sure you and your healthcare provider are on the same page.

2. Does this medication interact with any supplements or over the counter medications?

Some people equate “natural” supplements to having no risk of harm, which just isn’t true.  Over the counter (meaning purchased without a prescription) medications and nutritional supplements still have an action they exhibit within the body.  These substances still have to be digested, metabolized, and eliminated as waste products within the body.  Which means they can still potentially have an effect on your liver, kidney, intestinal system, etc.

Asking your pharmacist about supplements that you take is a way to help protect yourself against accidentally being a victim of a drug interaction or injury from a supplement or over the counter medication.

3. Does this medication need to be taken at a separate time or can I take this medication at the same time as my other medications?

This is greatly overlooked.  There are some medications that need to be taken on an empty stomach or separated from other medications and food by a specific number of hours. Some of these medications include levothyroxine, cholestyramine, and risedronate just to name a few.

Some medications must be separated from others in order to guarantee their full absorption by the body in the stomach. Drug interactions can occur with these medications and they can chemically bind to others and block absorption by the body.  Think about two magnets and the medications sticking together in the same manner and this binding blocks the body from breaking down the drug into absorbable components. The bound medications cannot work as they are supposed to and it is basically a waste of a pill.

4. What are some common side effects from this medication? 

Know what to expect and look out for when starting a new medication. Will it cause a headache?  Will the medication make you drowsy?  Can it be a danger to operate heavy machinery while on this medication?  Are there any driving restrictions for this medication (some do exist for example, Reyvow)?

5. What are the signs or symptoms of side effect needing emergency medical attention?

Alarm symptoms are symptoms that happen that warrant seeking medical attention ASAP as they can indicate imminent danger, permanent injury, or death.  Ask your pharmacist if there are any dangerous side effects and what are some early signs you should look out for to indicate you may need to seek urgent medical attention.  This knowledge can literally make the difference between life and death for you or your loved one.

For more in-depth information on tips and strategies on how you can get the most out of your pharmacy and navigate common pharmacy issues with ease, download our eBook Flip the ‘Script: A Patient Guide to Navigating Pharmacy Issues.

Make sure you take advantage of the free information and life saving education your pharmacist has to offer. 

Thanks for stopping by the Healthy Hive. Until next time!


This information is not medical advice and is solely for educational purposes. Consult your healthcare provider before making any health or medication decisions. Real Talk Health and it’s associates do not endorse/promote use of any medications or medical products mentioned on our website or blog posts or videos.