By Janet Coburn
You may think that your psychiatrist and your psychotherapist constitute your treatment team. You can add your caregiver, your bipolar friends, and your online groups and call them your support system. But there's one person you've left out. One who can be vital in getting the care and help you need.
My pharmacist – indeed, all the technicians and workers at my pharmacy – have been invaluable in managing my bipolar disorder and all the medications that go with it. Here are just some of the things they do for me.
Help with my insurance. My insurance policies over the years have made it more difficult to get the medications I need. My pharmacy has helped work out those problems. Most recently, my insurance decided that they would pay for only a 15-day supply of my sleeping aid every thirty days. I don't know what they were thinking – that I should sleep only every other day? My pharmacist got in touch with my insurance and worked out a solution. The pharmacy would fill the prescription for 30 days worth of pills – as my psychiatrist wrote it – and I could pay out of pocket for the half my insurance wouldn't reimburse.
Help with other pharmacies. Once my usual pharmacy was out of one of my prescriptions and wouldn't be receiving any until after I had completely run out. The pharmacy personnel made some phone calls and found another pharmacy just down the street that had the medication and could fill the prescription right away. They transferred the prescription there for me, too.
Help with paying for my medications. When I was between insurance plans, the staff at my pharmacy let me know that they had a discount card I could use to reduce the cost of my prescriptions. They applied it automatically to every one they filled. Pharmacies often have brochures and other information available about websites and other programs that reduce the cost of medications for patients. It's a good thing to ask about.
Help with refilling my medications. My pharmacy has an automatic system that will keep track of when I am eligible for a refill on my meds, and call me when they are able to provide a refill. The automatic robotic voice is annoying, but the information it provides is beneficial.
Help with picking up my prescriptions. My pharmacy has a drive-up window and 24-hour service. If yours doesn't, you may want to consider finding one that does. (I can also drop off prescriptions there, go have lunch, and come back to pick them up.) They also know my husband well and dispense my medications to him whenever he asks. They recognize him and know him by name.
With all that your pharmacy can do for you, there are some things you can do for them to make their lives easier and their service even better. Here are some ways I try to work with my pharmacy to make their lives – and mine – easier.
I give thanks. Not necessarily to a higher power, but to the pharmacist and technicians and cashiers themselves. (This also helps me. When I give a pleasant and sincere, "Thank you," the pharmacy personnel are more likely to remember me and go the extra mile.)
I am patient. Sometimes I have to wait for my prescriptions, and sometimes they're not ready when they're supposed to be. I remind myself that it's usually not the cashier's fault, or the pharmacy tech's, or even the pharmacist's. Sometimes it's simply due to the fact that the company has not scheduled enough workers to meet the demand. And that's when a smile and a thank you will do the most good.
I value them. Managing my bipolar disorder would be much more difficult without a knowledgeable, well-trained, responsive pharmacy staff. And with all the medications I take, they value me as a loyal repeat customer.