There are lots of small but significant responsibilities you take on as you become
an adult: Doing your own laundry. Making sure you keep the gas gauge off "E." Filling
OK, so maybe that last one isn't one of the first things that come to mind. Still,
it is an important step toward independence. It means you're starting to take responsibility
for your own health care.
In the Doctor's Office
The prescription process starts in the doctor's office or at the health clinic.
Tell the doc if you're taking any medicines — even over-the-counter (OTC) medicines
like vitamins or herbal medicines. With some medicines, there's a risk that one might
cause problems with the other (known in the medical profession as an interaction).
For example, certain prescription medicines can make birth control pills less effective.
Speaking of birth control, your doc will probably ask about birth control or whether
you use alcohol or illegal drugs. It may seem awkward to talk about these topics,
but your doc needs to know if you've taken anything that might interact with the prescription
medicine. Don't worry, though — your doctor isn't there to judge you or report
back to your parents. Many doctors find a way to speak privately with teen patients
so they can share confidential information. So don't hesitate to talk openly.
Your doctor may hand you a written prescription to take the pharmacy of your choice.
Lots of docs submit prescriptions electronically, though — in which case your
doc will ask which pharmacy you'd like to use.
If you'll be away for a while, you might want to fill your prescription at a large
chain pharmacy. Most chains use one prescription database for all their stores, so
you can pick up prescriptions at different stores in the same chain.
Before you fill your prescription, find out if it's covered by insurance.
Some medicines may not be. For example, your insurance company may not cover certain
acne medicines or your doctor may have to contact the insurance company to get these
approved. If that's the case, you'll want to know so there are no surprises at the
pharmacy. Often the number to call is on the back of your insurance card.
Picking Up Your Prescription
If your health insurance covers prescriptions, take your prescription card to the
pharmacy. When you first fill a prescription, the pharmacy staff might ask you to
leave your card for a while so they can verify your insurance. You may be asked
to show your state-issued identification for some medicines, so keep it handy.
The staff will probably ask if you have questions for the pharmacist or ask you
to sign a waiver if you don't. Now's your chance to ask any questions you might have
thought of since leaving the doctor's office — such as the best time of day
to take your medicine, whether it needs to be taken with food, etc.
If the pharmacy seems busy or you don't want to ask about something personal in
front of other people, you can always call the pharmacy and ask to speak to the pharmacist
after you leave. Mention that you just filled your prescription there and you have
Your prescription may come with an information sheet from the manufacturer, and
probably one from the pharmacy too. These offer useful information on how best to
take that particular medicine and also any side effects to watch out for.
If you notice any side effects while taking a medicine — even if you think
they're not serious or important — let your doctor know. You also can ask your
pharmacist for advice. Pharmacists are trained in the science of how medicines work
and can offer lots of useful advice.