Ask A Pharmacist

If you have a specific ailment or a question about a specific medication, you should contact your pharmacist or doctor. All questions answered in this section are for information purposes only and should never be used in lieu of advice from your pharmacist or doctor.



Where can I dispose of old or expired medications or needles such as lancets, syringes and needles?

These can be dropped off at your community pharmacy. For information on our Safe Sharps Program click here and for information on our Medication Disposal Program click here.

I am on the Pharmacare program. Why don’t I get any “free” medications anymore – I thought the price of drugs was going down?

The price of generic drugs has been declining over the last number of years and so has the price of each of your prescriptions.  This means that it will take more prescriptions before you reach your maximum co-pay established by the Pharmacare program.  You are actually saving money on each prescription.

I keep hearing about pharmacists expanded scope of practice, what can my pharmacist do that they couldn’t before?

Pharmacists’ scope of practice has changed to reflect the skills and expertise of pharmacists and the needs of the public for better access to the healthcare system.  Your pharmacist is now able to offer a number of services to help you manage your health close to home.  Services include such things as: 

  1. Renewing your chronic medication prescription,
  2. Administering injections like the flu shot and also prescribing for many common immunizations like Hepatitis A&B, 
  3. Assessing and prescribing for minor ailments like cold sores, allergies, skin conditions and many more,
  4. Prescribing smoking cessation medications,
  5. Providing medication reviews where the pharmacist will review all of your current medications (prescribed or not), identify any drug-related issues and provide you with a current medication record, 
  6. Therapeutically substituting a drug prescribed for you with another drug that has an equivalent therapeutic effect – this can be particularly helpful when there is a drug shortage or your plan does not cover the drug originally prescribed; and
  7. Prescribing in an emergency where there are no other reasonable options for you.

If you have any questions about these services, please  speak to your pharmacist about the many services that they can now provide.

Why does my pharmacist insist on talking to me when I want to buy my non-prescription head-ache medication or other medications which are kept behind the counter?

If your medication does not require a prescription but it is kept behind the pharmacy counter, it is considered to be potentially harmful and cannot be purchased without counselling by a pharmacist.  Just like with prescription medications, this counselling is to ensure the medication you have selected is appropriate for you.

Why does the pharmacist recommend I switch to a generic brand?

Generic drugs must meet certain federal requirements to prove that they are ”equivalent” to the brand name drug before they are permitted to be sold in Canada.  For most patients, there is no difference in treatment effectiveness when switching from brand name to generic drugs.  Generic drugs are generally significantly cheaper than the brand version, so the use of generic drugs helps to contain the cost of public and private health plans.

Why does it take so long to get my compounded prescription filled?

Preparing compounded prescriptions not only involves every step of filling a regular prescription but is also involves actually making the medication.  This process can take significant time and is often done outside the busiest hours of the pharmacy.  Certain ingredients may also have to be ordered so it is always a good idea to give at least 24 hours’ notice before you need a refill.

Why do you have to ask what other medications I am taking – can’t you see that in your records?

Pharmacists need to know all of the medications (prescription, non-prescription, physician samples, Over the Counter (OTC)  and natural products) you are taking to ensure your prescription is appropriate for you.  The pharmacist must screen for interactions, side effects and potential drug problems.  Even if you always get your prescription at the same pharmacy, these other medications are important and not always recorded on your profile.  If you get medications at more than one pharmacy then, due to privacy rules, the pharmacist does not have any access to those records – even if the pharmacy belongs to the same company.  By the end of 2016, Nova Scotia will have a fully implemented drug information system and on a go-forward basis, your pharmacist will be able to see all prescribed medications on your profile, regardless of where you have filled them.

Why do I have talk to the pharmacist every time I pick up my prescription?

It is important for you to speak to the pharmacist each time you pick up your prescription to ensure that you are getting the most out of your treatment.  The pharmacist will counsel you on what to expect from the medication, how to take it, common side effects and how to prevent them, if possible.  Even on a refill, you should speak to the pharmacist if anything has changed in your health or lifestyle since the last fill or if you have any unanswered questions concerning your medications.  Each time you leave with a prescription, you should know the answers to the following questions – if you don’t, you should ask your pharmacist:

  • What medical condition is the medication treating?
  • When can you expect to see the benefits of the medication?
  • What are the most common side effects of the medication and how can you manage them?
  • Can you stop the medication suddenly if you are not tolerating it well?
  • How much of the medication are you going to take with each dose?
  • How many times should you take the medication every day, what are the best times of day to take the medication, and how many hours apart should each dose be spaced?
  • How much time should you leave before or after your meals to take the medication?
  • What should you do if you forget to take a dose?
  • Are there any foods, beverages, or other medications you should avoid while taking this medication?
  • What is the proper way to store your medication?
  • How long should you be taking the medication?
  • When is your next follow-up visit with your physician to see if the medication is working?
Why does it take so long for my pharmacist to fill my prescription?

Your time is valuable but your health is precious. Each and every time you have a prescription filled (new or refill), your pharmacist ensures that the prescription (drug, dose and directions) is right for you.  This means that your pharmacist must check your entire medication profile (all drugs including prescription, non-prescription, physician samples and natural products), your medical conditions, allergies, other relevant data (like lab results) and any interactions that the prescribed drug may have with your current medications.  Sometimes this involves calling your doctor for additional information and/or your healthplan to determine and resolve coverage issues.  Think of your pharmacist as a second set of eyes to your health; even though your doctor has written the prescription, your pharmacist must ensure it is right for you  – not only does this reduce risk of drug therapy related problems for you, it is the law!

I have a concern about my pharmacy or pharmacist. Who should I contact?

Nova Scotia College of Pharmacists
1559 Brunswick Street
Suite 200 
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3J 2G1
Telephone: 902.422.8528
Fax: 902.422.0885 
General email:

Why does the pharmacist want to know why I’m taking a prescription?

It is required by the Nova Scotia College of Pharmacists that the pharmacist must be aware of all relevant information when filling a prescription. This includes knowing the indication, or why that medication is being taken, other medical conditions, medications, non-medication therapies, allergies, your physical characteristics like height and weight, blood work results, and even family history.  Pharmacists are required to have this information to determine if the prescription is safe and appropriate.

Pharmacists take into consideration many things when filling a prescription, including if the medication prescribed is the most appropriate, if there are interactions with other medications or medical conditions, and if it’s the correct dose or duration of therapy. Knowing what a prescription is for allows the pharmacist to properly check that prescription. It also helps the pharmacist make recommendations to your physician if the prescription needs to be changed, or to offer additional care for your condition.

Lastly, it is very important that your pharmacy file is up to date regarding allergies and medical conditions, in case you are ever in an emergency situation since the hospital calls your pharmacy for your health information.


Antibiotic Myths and Facts - slides provided by Colchester East Hants Health Centre.