"Never feel embarrassed. We don't judge." 12 things your pharmacist wants you to know.

A trip to the pharmacy can be daunting AF. Sometimes you're in and out, and other times you're stuck in an aisle like an absolute dingus, comparing labels and ingredients and feeling like you need a science degree. Or if you're anything like us, you're slipping in with an expired prescription and hoping the person behind the counter won't notice (they did).

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It can be A LOT. And sometimes you end up feeling all weird and embarrassed when you don't know what the hell you're doing or what you're actually looking for. (Is it just a rash? Or is it fungal? OMG IT'S TOTALLY FUNGAL).

That, my friends, is when you should make your cute little way to a pharmacist/drug wizard. They know ALL of the stuff! And despite what you might think about Linda always looking too busy for your silly questions, pharmacists always want to help - and chances are, they know the answer.

Cause it's pervy finding out all the things we're probably doing wrong, we spoke to Elyse Burraston, a pharmacist in Brisbane, and asked her to lay it all out. (Spoiler: she did. She really did).

From how to get the most out of your prescription meds to what you should avoid at all costs, here's a list of everything your pharmacist wants you to know.

1. Generic medicines are just as good as branded medicines.

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They are! They really are. "Generic brands contain the same active ingredient and work the same way as the original medicine," said Burraston. See? Told ya.

It can be a bit confusing though, we get it. But the 'generic' brands are usually just the name of the active ingredient in the medicine, whereas the 'brand' medicines have a name chosen by the manufacturer. And according to the experts, there's no difference between generic and brand medicines.

"Generic medicines go through extensive assessment by the TGA to ensure they meet the same standards of quality, safety, and effectiveness as the original brand," Burraston explains.

"Although generic medicines may look different in packaging, size and colour, what matters is that the active ingredient is still the same."

So, don't be afraid to go generic! You don't *really* have to drop extra cash on something just for the brand name. Save that dosh for the mascara you spotted in aisle four. 

2. Be consistent with your medications.

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Anyone else casual AF with the timing of their medications? Same. But apparently this is not good. Especially when it comes to the oral contraceptive pill. Eek!

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"We often see people who are not consistent with taking their medicines which can have serious health outcomes," said Burraston. 

"The best example would be the oral contraceptive pill which needs to be taken at the same time each day to be effective (which could have a life-altering outcome!)."

3. You should *actually* read the label.

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Don't roll your eyes at us, Kathy. Can we please have a show of hands how many people actually read the label on their meds? Anyone? That's what we thought. 


One of the biggest mistakes pharmacists find is just how common it is for people to take the incorrect dosage... all cause they didn't read the label. 

"I often see customers who don’t read the directions on their medication e.g. they take one instead of two or vice versa. (I know this sounds really silly, but it happens often!)."

So, read the label, folks. They ain't just slapped on there for fun.

4. Don't share your meds.

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While you might feel like you're just doing everyone a solid, sharing your prescriptions and medications is not a thing you should do. It sounds like a PSA, but it's true.

"Often I see people who are trying to help by giving family members or friends by giving them their medication," said Burraston. 

Your GP prescribed your medication specifically for you (and only you) - so you never know how someone else might react to it. 

"This puts the recipient at risk, as you have no idea of how their body will react and it makes you partially responsible. In this case, sharing is not caring."

5. There's an incorrect way to take over-the-counter meds.

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This is a biggie, you guys. Just because you can buy certain medications over-the-counter, it doesn’t mean they are 100 per cent safe to take in any amount, or in conjunction with your prescription meds. So, be really wary of this.

"A lot of these items can interact with prescription medications or certain medical conditions however they are readily available in places where you can’t get advice," said Burraston.

"If you are taking medicines or have a medical condition, it is best to ask your pharmacist before starting them."

6. Know what you're taking and why.

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"One of the most common issues I have seen with people’s medication is they do not know the active ingredient of their medicine or what they are used for," said Burraston.

We know it can be hard (some of those names sound like *actual* gibberish!), but make a note of it in your phone, or write it down on a post-it-note before going in to the pharmacy and playing charades. 

"We often recieve requests for advice on medicines (which is excellent!), however sometimes the customer cannot name their medication, and describe it as “round and white”. This makes it extremely difficult to identify, which prevents us from giving appropriate information."

Oh. Oh, dear.

"The recent change to active ingredient prescribing by GPs should help reduce this from happening, however if you are unsure about what your medicines are for, it's best to just ask. Everyone has a responsibility for their own health."

7. You can use downloadable apps to stay on top of your repeats.

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Yes! This is a thing. And, hoo boy - do we wish we had known about it sooner. (We do).


According to Burraston, most local pharmacies now offer free prescription reminder services through downloadable apps - so take advantage of this! "These services may require your prescriptions to be kept on file (where you can’t lose it!)."


If downloadable apps and all that kinda jazz isn't for you - don't stress. Burraston said there are a few tricks you can use to stay on top of your repeats.

"It helps if you stay loyal," she said. "By using a regular pharmacy it will allow them to ensure your medication is available on hand.

"This was particularly beneficial during the COVID-19 lockdowns and the subsequent medication shortages – it was much easier to try to locate the items my local community needed as I could see what my regular customers required."

Another handy tip? Set a calendar alert in your phone, so you don’t leave it until the last minute (read: all of us).

"After COVID-19, there were a lot of medication shortages and it made it extremely difficult to track down even common medicines. Customers coming in a week before they ran out gave me more time to either track the medication at another pharmacy if it was unavailable, or order it in."

8. Never feel embarrassed.

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Got a ~burning~ question and feel too embarrassed to ask? "There is no need to be embarrassed about your enquiries as we have most likely heard it before. We don’t judge!" said Burraston.

So, save yourself the panic-induced Google search at 2am and ask an expert. Easier AND safer.

"Pharmacist love to help. If in doubt, ask us the question! It's way safer (Google isn’t always your friend). It doesn’t matter to us how busy we are, we are here to assist you with all your medication queries."

9. You can meet with your pharmacist one-on-one.

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Did you know that most pharmacies have private consulting rooms? So, there's no need to worry about standing in the middle of a pharmacy and explaining your symptoms - just ask if you can speak to someone in private.

"Pharmacist care about your health - we just want to help."

And just BTW, pharmacists are not only able to dispense medicines, they also often offer a wide range of other services. 

While not every pharmacy offers the same services, Burraston said many can "administer vaccines, blood pressure checks, baby nurser or diabetes educator visits, and hearing checks." Neat!

10. We'll help save you money where we can.

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"Pharmacists are trained to identify and treat minor ailments (such as coughs, colds, cuts and grazes). So, it's definitely worth asking your local pharmacist about these minor issues before making a doctor's appointment, as it can save you both time and money," said Burraston.

"Pharmacist's give out their advice for free and you don’t need an appointment to see them. All you need is just a little patience if it is busy."

Important thing: "Obviously don’t come in if you have cold and flu symptoms before having a COVID test, and if you do come in after you have been confirmed negative, please still wear a mask (so we don’t get your germs)." Gotcha.

11. Try to stick to one pharmacy.

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Umm... where's the loyalty, friend? We've seen you slipping around...

"Whilst not a mistake, pharmacy shopping doesn’t help you get appropriate advice. Being loyal to a pharmacy helps the pharmacist as they have a greater understanding of your medication history."

12. Being a pharmacist is more than printing a label.

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We can almost hear the collective sigh of a million pharmacists. Next time you think your pharmacist is ignoring you on purpose, keep this in mind.

"A lot more happens behind the scenes than typing a label. We consider the appropriateness and safety of each medicine for every person."

Feature image: Getty

Are you a pharmacist? Anything you'd like to add? Share with us in the comment section below.