When You Can Head to the Pharmacy Instead of the Doctor

Written by Shivam Patel, PharmD, BSPS, RPh | Posted April 05, 2021

Retail pharmacists are the most accessible drug gurus in every community. You are able to ask your local pharmacist questions about your medications and general health concerns any day of the week. We’re here to listen and help. As it can be difficult to schedule an immediate doctor visit, pharmacists are a useful tool in maintaining your overall health. Additionally, in some states, pharmacists can legally prescribe you medications, saving you time and the hassle of having to make two separate visits for provider care.

Related: 6 Ways to Save Time & Money at the Pharmacy

Pharmacist vs. Doctor Consultations

Pharmacist consultations consist of useful advice on your medication regimen but can also touch upon minor health conditions, tips on diet, and more on how to get the most out of your  medication therapy. Below, I’ve included a snapshot of the types of advice you can get from your friendly, neighborhood pharmacist. (Not to mention, those working diligently at online pharmacies.)

Advice Pharmacists Can Provide Patients

Pharmacist Advice Examples
Medical questions on your medications
  • What time of day you should take your meds
  • If you can take your meds on an empty stomach
  • If you need to watch out for any medication interactions 
Ways to save money on your medications
  • Cheaper, over-the-counter alternatives
  • Working with your provider to switch your drug to a cheaper generic alternative
  • Using a discount card they may have on hand  to save money on out-of-pocket pharmacy expenses
Information on when and how to get essential vaccinations
  • Providing info and administering the COVID-19, flu, shingles and pneumonia vaccines
Resolving cold and flu symptoms
  • Determining the best OTC medication based on your symptoms
  • Providing info on cheaper generic OTC options
If it is necessary for you to visit your doctor
  • Identifying and assessing your symptoms, like a cough or rash, that will not be resolved with OTC options and requires your doctor’s attention
Resolving minor health issues
  • Providing information on the best OTC options for trouble sleeping, muscle aches, headaches, vitamin deficiencies, and more.
Helping you find solutions for bad tasting medications 
  • If possible, flavoring your medication to something tastier and easier to go down
  • Providing information on which juices or foods, like applesauce, can help combat the icky taste
If your medications are safe to take
  • Reviewing your medical history and checking for any interactions that may place you at harm
  • Providing info on which medications are ok to take while breastfeeding or pregnant
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Can a pharmacist give injections?

If you need to get any of the following vaccines and injections, you should be able to walk in (but always a better idea to call ahead) to your local pharmacy and schedule an appointment. Be sure to bring your ID and health insurance card if you have one.

  • COVID-19 (varies by state)

  • Annual influenza (ages three and up)

  • Hep A

  • Hep B

  • Shingles

  • Pneumonia

  • Chicken Pox

  • Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap)

  • Birth Control (with a prescription from provider)

  • Vitamin B12 (with a prescription from provider)

The cost for these injections can vary by your health insurance: usually, 100% is covered but sometimes you may have to provide a small co-pay.

Pharmacist Tip: Shop around if you don't have health insurance! Sam’s Club and Costco pharmacies don't require membership for vaccinations. Also, you can check your state health department for more information on receiving free or low-cost vaccinations.

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Can a pharmacist write prescriptions?

Most states allow pharmacists to write certain prescriptions, but the condition for which it’s written can vary. Pharmacists will usually prescribe medications for minor conditions and health issues in the permitted states such as: 

  • Allergic Rhinitis

  • Acne

  • Cold Sores

  • Diaper Rash

  • Yeast Infections

  • Urinary Tract Infection

  • And more 

Related: Can a pharmacist recommend medication?  

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