Pharmacists are trained to help you choose the medicine or product that will be most effective and safest for your needs. When you are buying from a pharmacy, you can ask questions of any of the pharmacy assistants. If they are unable to help, they will ask the pharmacist, who has a comprehensive knowledge of prescription and nonprescription medicines (‘over-the-counter’ [OTC] medicines).
Talk to your pharmacist
It is always useful to talk to the pharmacy staff; they can find out a lot about your state of health just by listening and observing. Talking to staff also allows them to ask you appropriate questions. Every customer is unique!
Importantly, you can expect that all personal discussions with pharmacy staff will be sensitive and discreet, so other customers cannot hear your conversations. Pharmacy staff realise that what one person considers a reasonable enquiry might embarrass another.
You can ask to talk to the pharmacist in person if you want to. Some medicines are classified ‘pharmacist only’, which means the sale needs to be permitted by the pharmacist and not by an assistant.
It is particularly important to talk to your pharmacist if you:
- are currently taking any other medicines, remedies or natural therapies (including any you may have bought in a supermarket)
- have any other health problems or conditions, e.g. long-term conditions like high blood pressure, arthritis, asthma, cancer, depression, glaucoma, heart disease, osteoporosis or pain
- have any allergies or have reacted to any medicines before
- are buying a medicine or product for an infant or elderly person.
Before visiting the pharmacy, it is helpful to note down the names of any medicines and other remedies, supplements or natural therapies you are taking. Note the brand name of the product (e.g. Nurofen) and/or the ingredients (e.g. ibuprofen).
If you know what you want and you request a specific medicine or product, the pharmacy staff may still ask you some questions. This is because it is important that they check there has been no change in your health since you last used it.
If you have tried using a medicine or product and are not happy with it, pharmacy staff can usually suggest another or seek advice from the pharmacist about a ‘step-up’ in treatment. They should also check to make sure you have been using the product correctly.
Your pharmacist can dispose of any unwanted or out-of-date medicines. Disposing of medicines is particularly important if you have small children around the house.