Counting Your Pills at the Pharmacy Can Pay Off
It's Important to Do Your Own Quality Control Check
There are important reasons why you should count the pills you get from your pharmacy at least periodically—your own home quality control check.
When should a home quality control check (self-counting) be done on the prescriptions you pick up from your pharmacy?
1. If the medicine is critical, and you cannot ever be without it without suffering serious consequences. Insulin and needles comes to mind, along with heart pills, asthma or anti-seizure medicines, and many others that would at least keep you home from work if not possibly harm you physically.
2. If you have ever run out of medicine early in the past, or suspect that the count was incorrect. Note that this is not blaming pharmacy staff—everyone makes mistakes. Some pills are counted by machines that can make mistakes, pharmacies sometimes have new employees who aren't yet as seasoned, and counting pills isn't easy to do, let alone all day long. However, at the same time if you cannot drive to work if you don't have any more of medicine XYZ and therefore lose a whole day's pay, that's serious enough. And if the prescription bottle indicates that enough medicine has been dispensed when in fact it hasn't, then you need to take the time to recount everything as soon as you're home from the pharmacy for the next few months.
3. Every few months do a spot-check of your most expensive prescription at least, unless you suspect one of the other problems, to make sure you're getting what you (or your prescription insurance company) paid for. The corollary of this is to keep pharmacy staff honest and are not short-changing you on the expensive pills (stealing).
Important: Report any shortages or overages (amounts different than what is on the bottle's label) that have been dispensed to the pharmacy's manager directly (do not leave a message with someone else on staff). Perhaps there is a problem with one employee's counting method, a pharmacy machine, a pharmacy standard procedure, or (in the case of expensive medicine) perhaps someone is pocketing a few pills to resell to folks in a similar position as you are: coming up on the end of the month and not having as much medicine as the bottle indicates with no way to prove that YOU didn't take or lose those pills.
Reason #1 - Prescriptions Are Expensive
The first reason is that most prescription medicines are expensive. That means they have "street value" even if they're not traditional "addictive" types of drugs.
If you are missing two or three pills out of a 30-pill supply of a $100 prescription, that's $6.67-$10.00 out of your pocket or your health insurance company's pocket (which trickles down to you in the form of higher insurance premiums).
With the high cost of healthcare today, insurance companies are tightening their belts in many ways, one of which is by limiting how soon you can get a prescription refilled. This, in turn, causes problems for the consumers, if only that you can never go on a vacation longer than the lead-time by which your insurance company will pay for the next 30-day supply of pills. With one insurance company, even when begged for permission to refill just a few days early, refuses to do so and the patient is therefore tied to within 5 days' trip of their pharmacy.
Reason #2 - Avoid Problems With Insurance
This brings us to the second reason for counting your pills when you get a prescription filled: if you are missing 2-3 days worth of medicine consistently every month, after awhile your insurance company will not pay for your prescription until you are closer to running out according to their records. They typically won't refill a prescription more than a week in advance of when you should run out.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, for example, will not make exceptions to this rule even if you are planning on going on vacation and will run out of medication during your trip. Whether you are vacationing or missing pills, therefore, you will need to pay out-of-pocket for the cost of the additional medicine you'll need to get through the days until your insurance company will cover the prescription cost again.
Have you ever had a problem with the number of pills dispensed by your pharmacy being incorrect?
Do you think the problem was human/machine counting error or a deliberate theft of your pills?
Whether due to human error or deliberate employee theft, your pharmacy purchases should be checked for accuracy at least periodically to ensure that you are getting what you need: what you paid for.
If you find an error, report it to the pharmacy manager immediately and request that your pills be counted twice by pharmacy staff to help prevent errors in the future.
In extreme cases, you may need to stand at the pharmacy counter and count out the pills yourself in view of the pharmacy staff because pharmacies cannot take "returns" and may not believe you if you claim to be missing high-value pills again and again, which would be the case if someone in the pharmacy were deliberately short-changing you.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.