Drugstores no longer double as social centers and ice cream parlors, and friendly pharmacists may seem to be an endangered species. But if you need prescriptions fairly often, try to have one pharmacist fill them all. A good pharmacist should get to know you. A conscientious pharmacist will keep your “drug profile” on record: a confidential rundown of medications prescribed, food and drug allergies, and your doctor’s name and address. If you’re seeing more than one doctor, the pharmacist can spot drug incompatibilities that they, or you, may not be aware of. Even if you’re only buying aspirin, you may need expert advice.

Shop for a pharmacist who’s willing to keep records for you and also is available – not only for filling prescriptions but also for answering questions. Suppose you didn’t quite understand what your doctor said. Are you sure you know whether to take the drug before, with or after meals? If you miss a dose, is it advisable to take two the next time? Should you take all the medication, or quit when you feel better? Your pharmacist may know the answers to the questions, or at least be willing to telephone your doctor to find out.

Keep the following points in mind:

Professional Qualifications. Pharmacists must be registered with the state pharmaceutical board; a certificate should be prominently displayed.
Generic drugs. These can often be substituted effectively for brand-name products and will usually cost less. Your pharmacist should stock them and be willing to use them. (Laws on generics vary from state to state. First, ask your doctor about using them.)

Customer Service. Find out whether your pharmacist offers such conveniences as charge accounts, home delivery, and yearly statements for tax and insurance purposes, and whether these cost extra. Some drugstores offer discounts to senior citizens and other groups.

Emergency services. A phone number for after-hours and weekend emergency service should be displayed.
Health aids. If the store stocks such items as crutches or braces, the pharmacist should be qualified to give advice on their use and fitting.

Even at large chain or discount drugstores, it’s worthwhile getting acquainted with the pharmacist. Find someone with the time to get to know you. Relaxed, informed advice can save time, complications, money, and possibly even your life!