Viewpoint: A Pharmacist's tongue-in-cheek guide to patient etiquette


Here's a guide for patients to mind their manners.

1. Be sure to stare at the pharmacist while your prescriptions are being filled. Staring at the pharmacist makes him or her work faster.

2. Never remember the name of the medications you want refilled. By calling it “the little white pill,” you are sure to receive the correct medication.

3. When calling in eight prescriptions or more, always arrive at the pharmacy to pick them up within 10 minutes. It is OK to hurry pharmacists; if they make a mistake, it won’t kill you or anything.

4. Feel free to ask the pharmacy staff for the exact price of your prescription before it is filled. The staff should know every co-pay for every insurance plan.

5. Always ask how long it will take to fill a prescription. If you’re lucky, you will get it for free if it’s not ready in 30 minutes or less. Also, be sure to keep asking if the prescription is ready every five minutes - pharmacists often keep prescriptions to themselves after they are filled just to tick you off.

6. Be sure to complain about the co-pay. The co-pay is set on the whim of the pharmacist and has nothing to do with the insurance company.

7. It is not necessary to present your insurance card-or even know the name of the company. Pharmacists are psychic and know everyone’s insurance.

8. Pharmacies encourage forgery. When you pick up a prescription for someone else, please forge his name.

9. Upon calling in a refill for a maintenance medication without refills, always question why the doctor has to be called when you’ve taken the same medication for years. It is only a myth that prescription medications have to be ordered by doctors.

10. Always question why the insurance company is so concerned about your getting Prilosec 10 days too soon. After all you’re paying $5.00 for it, and that’s all it costs.

11. Over-the-counter displays are put there in order to entertain children. Please encourage them to play with any
item and even open one or two.

12. Make sure you save all your old insurance cards. One of pharmacists’ favorite games is to guess which one is

13. When you call in a prescription, just say, “Can I have my pills filled?” You can be sure the pharmacist will recognize your voice and know which medication you want.

14. Pharmacists are some of the few people whose ears work independently. So when you see a pharmacist on the phone, feel free to just start talking-his free ear will hear everything.

15. The pharmacist is the only person in the store who is really capable of writing down your refill numbers, so when you call, demand to speak to a pharmacist.

16. Try to do all your pharmacy business on a Monday. The pharmacist will appreciate it.

17. Another pharmacist favorite is to have a patient walk up and ask, “Can I pick up my prescription?” Guessing who you are is another pharmacist game.

18. When there are several people ahead of you near the pickup counter, always stand right at it. The pharmacist
will know how important you are and fill your Rx first, and, if not, you can listen to juicy patient-pharmacist conversations.

19. If you are not asked for your insurance card, it means that the pharmacist wants to fill your prescription and then, after you are told how much it is, you can shout, “I have insurance.” The pharmacist will be glad to do it over.

20. When you need a really old prescription filled, tell the pharmacist that you have a standing order for it. This works especially well if the doctor who wrote it is dead.

21. When you get a new insurance card, make sure you keep it a secret. The pharmacist would rather phone your old company to find out why your Rx is being rejected.

22. When you drop off a refill bottle, tell the pharmacist you’ll pick it up either today or tomorrow. This type of clarity helps him plan his workload.

23. When you order your prescriptions and the pharmacist asks which ones, respond by saying, “All of them.” He will know.

24. When asked for the number of your prescription, respond by saying, “I don’t know, you have it there.” The pharmacist will know.

25. When asking for a refill on a pain medication, make sure you wait until the last one is gone and then try to calllate on Friday afternoon. It will be easy for the pharmacist to get in touch with the doctor for a new Rx.

The author is a community pharmacist in Minnesota. His e-mail address is:

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