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Health Literacy: Starting a Conversation with Your Pharmacist

Everyone knows the basics of staying healthy: eat right, exercise and get enough sleep. But when it comes to the medications we take every day, we often don’t understand how they work or interact with our bodies. In fact, the CDC reports that nine out of 10 adults struggle to understand and use health information when it is unfamiliar, complex or jargon-filled. October is Health Literacy Month, making it a great time to speak with your pharmacist to better understand their recommendations and make more informed health decisions as a patient. Here are three thought-starters for these conversations:

What to ask your pharmacist: Ask your pharmacist about common side effects for your medications, restrictions on your diet while taking the medications, what to do if you miss a dose and how to store your medication. You should also ask about whether taking certain medications simultaneously can cause negative side effects or impact the effectiveness of either medication.

What to tell your pharmacist: The most important thing to remember is that your pharmacist is there to help you, not to judge you, so always be honest with them. Your pharmacist can offer informed advice about how medications will interact with each other, and how they might affect you specifically based on your different symptoms, restrictions or allergies. Let them know if you haven’t been taking a certain medication and why. Even if you feel embarrassed, they can assist with a treatment plan or recommend methods to alleviate unwanted side effects. If a pharmacists’ explanation is confusing, ask them to explain it in a different way until it makes sense. Health literacy begins with open communication!   

How to save money on your prescriptions: Many people don’t know that most name-brand prescription drugs have a generic counterpart that is just as effective. There are generic drugs to treat most common ailments, such as pain, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, and depression. The dosage or instructions may be different, but switching could save you a lot of money in the long run. The FDA has found that generic drugs usually cost about 85% less than their brand-name counterparts. If you’re interested in switching from a name-brand drug to a generic, talk to your pharmacist about available options that may be right for you.

Another way to cut costs on prescriptions for your family is participating in prescription discount programs through your local pharmacy. By participating in prescription discount programs like Community Cares Rx, you can utilize free online tools to research drug prices and download a free prescription discount card that could help you cut down on the cost of medications.

Take advantage of the information at your fingertips. Health literacy relies upon strong communication with your healthcare provider, so take ownership of your health and ask for the information you need!

To learn more about consumer prescription savings programs that deliver real results for pharmacies and the community at large, please visit

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