1. We prescribe certain drugs. While pharmacists’ prescribing powers vary across Canada, this service “is a real time saver” if it helps you avoid an unnecessary trip to your MD, says Phil Emberley of the Canadian Pharmacists Association. In Ontario, for instance, pharmacists can prescribe smoking cessation therapies, while their counterparts in the Prairie and Atlantic provinces can treat up to 32 minor ailments including skin irritations, sprains and nausea.
2. We refill doctor prescriptions, too. Pharmacists can offer drug renewals for up to six months on select medications that treat chronic conditions such as hypertension. And always ask for a 90-day refill as opposed to the standard 30 days, says Toronto pharmacy owner John Papastergiou. “That way you only pay the dispensing fee once.”
3. No drug plan? No problem. If medications aren’t covered, ask your pharmacist if there’s a non-prescription alternative. Take fluconazole tablets, prescribed for yeast infections, for example. Off-the-shelf versions are just as effective and usually a lot cheaper, Papastergiou says.
4. We do medication reviews for free. The provinces pay pharmacists to perform this service and it pays to take advantage of it—particularly if you’re on several different medications and want to make sure you’re using them safely and effectively. Pharmacists can then work with physicians to “de-prescribe” if they determine you’re taking drugs that are inappropriate. “We can help spot that and call your doctor,” says Papastergiou.
5. The longer you wait, the more we make. Many pharmacists own their businesses, meaning they’re more than happy to see you peruse their drug stores and fill up your basket with other items while you wait to get a prescription filled. So steer clear of Fridays and Mondays, which tend to be the busiest. For the shortest wait times, head to the pharmacy midweek, says Papastergiou.