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3 Ways to Learn More About a Prescription Medication

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When a doctor prescribes a medication, he or she may tell you what it’s for and basic safety guidelines, but that’s usually about it. Patients are pretty much on their own when it comes to actually getting the prescription filled and finding the best price.

Not fully understanding the ins and outs of a prescription can impact medication adherence and your wallet. Given that nearly half of Americans take at least one prescription medication a month, it’s an issue that affects almost every family. For the roughly 12 percent of people who take five or more prescription medications a month, information can lead to empowerment that provides more control.

As the number of prescriptions has increased over the years, a few tools and resources have been developed to help patients learn more about the medications they’re taking.

Prescription Cost Comparison Tool

One of the biggest concerns related to prescription medication is cost. When the doctor hands you a prescription there isn’t going to be a price quote.

There are a number of variables that can affect the cost of a prescription. Your insurance coverage is a big factor in determining how much a medication will cost. Whether you choose name brand or generic options can also significantly alter the price of a prescription.

Your doctor may not be able to provide a lot of information, but there are ways to ensure you’re getting the best price possible. Companies like have created tools that allow users to compare prescription prices online. All you have to do is enter the name of the prescription and your zip code to find prices from local pharmacies.

Pill Identifier Tool

What if you find medication that isn’t in its original bottle? If you’re juggling more than one medication or use a pill organizer you may come across stray pills without a label.

It’s never safe to take a pill if you don’t know exactly what it is and the dosage. Since some medications are extremely expensive or in low supply you may not want to discard them immediately.

A pill identifier tool can be used to track down the name of a medication based on a variety of descriptive features. There are six key features to look for:

Size - Measure the size of the pill in millimeters.

Shape - Pills are typically round or capsule-shaped, but prescription medications can come in 15 different shapes.

Score - Scores are etchings in a pill that make it easier to break the pill apart. There are typically 1-4 scores on prescription medications.

Symbol - There may also be a non-alphanumeric symbol, which is a good identifier.

Color - The color of the pill can also be an indicator of what it is, however, you shouldn’t go on color alone.

Imprint - Look on all sides of the pill for an imprint, also known as the pill ID. This is one of the most reliable pill identifiers.

You can input this information into a pill identifier tool to receive a list of possible medications that match the description.

Local Pharmacists

Another medical professional who can fill you in on a prescription medication is the pharmacist filling the order. Pharmacists are extremely knowledgeable about the drugs they work with. When you get the prescription filled you can ask the pharmacist:

  • If generic options are available.

  • What the price difference would be for different options.

  • If there are any risks or side effects.

  • If there are benefits of one medication over the other.

Few people take advantage of this valuable resource, but that could be changing. Pharmacists at CVS and Walgreens are now focused on providing one-on-one interactions at the pharmacy to improve medication adherence. The CVS Pharmacy Advisor Program encourages pharmacists ways to engage with patients who are at the start of treatment or taking a new prescription. Patients can also discuss their prescriptions with a pharmacist over the phone.

When in doubt, you can always reach out to the doctor who prescribed the medication. They may not be able to help you find the best prices, but they can help you circumvent complications that could otherwise be avoided.

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