Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Ask an Expert: Patient Rights at the Pharmacy Counter

This post is part of our “Ask an Expert” blog series. In this post, Ken Majkowski, Pharm.D and Chief Pharmacy Officer at FamilyWize, addresses the rights all patients have when they visit the pharmacy. Ken brings more than 40 years of healthcare experience to the FamilyWize team, including 14 years of clinical pharmacy experience in retail, hospital, and home care. Read his full bio, here.

There are many articles and pamphlets available that describe what your rights are as a patient at a doctor’s office. But are you aware of your rights at your local pharmacy?

Specifically, there are five patient rights that I encourage everyone to be aware of before they fill a prescription for any member of their family.

Patient Rights at the Pharmacy

1. Right to choose your pharmacy
First and foremost, you have the right to choose which pharmacy you go to for your prescription needs. Too many patients default to the pharmacy closest to their home or doctor’s office, without researching the prices of their medications or considering other variables like added services (e.g. delivery options or in-store clinics). You have the right to choose the pharmacy that will best serve your family’s needs.

2. Right to access a pharmacist for questions and counseling
You have the right to ask to speak with the pharmacist. Sometimes the person who hands you your prescription is a pharmacy technician, not a licensed pharmacist. He or she should offer you access to the on-duty pharmacist if you have any questions about your prescription, but even if they do not, you always have the right to ask. You are not “bothering” the pharmacist and the pharmacy technician will not be insulted.

3. Right to privacy of both conversation and records
Thanks to HIPAA, patient privacy has become the norm. Patients should always expect their personal information and medical records to be kept strictly confidential. But if a pharmacist or pharmacy technician initiates a conversation with you about your medication, you always have the right to request a more private location. Today, most pharmacies have separate counters, privacy rooms, or partitioned areas available for that purpose.

4. Right to choose your method of payment
Did you know that you don’t have to use your health insurance to purchase a prescription, even if you have coverage? At the pharmacy counter, you always have the right to choose if you would like to apply your insurance benefits or pay cash. Depending on your coverage, the pharmacist may be able to help you understand what your most cost-effective option might be. For example, some patients find that they save more money by paying cash and utilizing the free Rx prescription discount card from FamilyWize than by using other coverage or discount options, especially for patients with a High Deductible Health Plan.

5. Right to file a grievance
If you are unhappy with the service you have received for any reason, you have the right to file a grievance or complaint. To find your pharmacy’s protocols, please ask at your pharmacy or search your pharmacy’s website for additional details.

Knowing your patient rights and utilizing them will enable you to become a better-informed participant in your own healthcare and wellbeing. And the next time you refill your prescription at the pharmacy, remember to use your free pharmacy discount card from FamilyWize.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Opioid Epidemic: Three Things Families Should Know

The New York Times recently reported that drug overdose deaths in 2016 most likely exceeded 59,000, the largest annual jump ever recorded in the United States. The article attributes this terrifying statistic to an escalating public health crisis: opioid addiction, now made more deadly by an influx of fentanyl and similar drugs. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50.

How can you keep your loved ones safe? Here are three facts about the opioid crisis that families need to know:

1. In many cases, illegal heroin and fentanyl use begins with the abuse of legally prescribed painkillers.  As described in The Economist, opioids can be divided into three broad groups. First, are legitimate painkillers, such as OxyContin, which is FDA-approved and even eligible for prescription savings. Heavily prescribed since the 1990s, some of these pills were abused by people who defeated their slow-release mechanisms by crushing and then snorting or injecting them. The second group consists of powerful synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl and carfentanil. These have legitimate medical uses, but are often manufactured illegally and smuggled into America. The third opioid is heroin, derived from opium poppies, almost all of it illegally.

Too often, abuse begins innocently enough – a middle-aged woman with chronic back pain begins regularly using legally prescribed opioid pain medication. She may find that over time, she needs more and more to feel better. Then when her prescription runs out, she discovers that she can’t get through the day without it and turns to illegal options, like fentanyl or heroin.

Sadly, it is just as likely that her teenage son may get his hands on her prescribed medication, taking “just a few pills for a party.” His addiction will then often follow the same path, until his life is consumed by his need for the drugs.

2. The opioid epidemic is not an urban problem or a “bad people” problem. The Economist also reports that deaths are highest in the Midwest and Northeast, among middle-aged men, and among Caucasians. Some of the worst-affected counties are rural. As Bruce Y. Lee, a contributor put it, “Science will help everyone understand that opioid addiction is not ‘bad people doing bad things.’... It's not as if more and more people around the country since the '90s have decided to turn bad. The opioid epidemic is a systems problem.” Because the danger is the drug itself and how it affects the brain, it is critical for all families to work to prevent drug addiction.

3. If you face chronic pain, there are alternatives to opioids. Before you accept a prescription for any pain medication, ask about what kind it is and what your options are. Short-term use of opioids can be safe, but if you have school-age children in the house or expect to be taking your medication for an extended period of time, it is worth asking about addiction risk and other alternatives.

Unfortunately, sometimes opioid alternatives are not covered by some health insurances. That is where FamilyWize can help. Our Free Rx Prescription Discount Card enables everyone, both insured and uninsured, to save on their prescription medications, with average savings of around 40 percent. Learn more at

To learn more about the opioid epidemic, please visit the CDC website – Understanding the Epidemic.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Walking is Free, Easy and Effective

The more things change, the more things stay the same. Although you’re taking your medications daily (and using the best Rx discount card for additional savings), exercise is important, too. While there will always be a trendy new workout to try, good-old walking will always be a safe, effective standby exercise for virtually every body type in every stage of life.

Need to be reminded why walking is so great for you?
Here are seven benefits of walking for exercise:

1.     Walking can be a form of meditation – Studies have found that a 20-minute walk can calm your overactive brain and restore your attention.
2.     Walking can protect your memory – Researchers following up on 300 older adults after 13 years found that those who had walked six to nine miles a week lowered their risk of memory problems by 50 percent.
3.     Walking is also good for brain function in general – Researchers found that adults who walked for 40 minutes three times a week slowed age-related declines in brain function and improved their performance on cognitive tasks.
4.     Walking reduces your odds of developing chronic health conditions – Studies show that regular walks of approximately 30 minutes decrease your risk of developing osteoporosis, breast and colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and more.
5.     Walking keeps your weight in check – Regular walks are a simple way to maintain a healthy weight and avoid the health risks associated with obesity.
6.     Walking keeps your doctor happy – Regular walking improves your most basic health statistics, including your blood pressure, blood sugar, and blood lipid profile.
7.     Walking is good for your blood sugar levels – The Whitaker Wellness Institute encourages its patients to take a 10-minute walk after meals to help clear glucose out of the bloodstream.

And best of all, walking is FREE! No gym memberships or fancy equipment required. Taking a short walk every day (provided your doctor hasn’t advised against it) is a great way to begin an exercise habit. Interested in giving it a try? Start here for some easy guidelines from the Mayo Clinic.

Have a great resource for fitness walking? Share it on our Facebook page! And for the best prescription savings card, turn to FamilyWize.

      AARP – Walk This Way

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Family Budgets: There’s an App for That

Managing the family budget used to require a lot of paper – specifically bills, receipts, and bank statements. Today, just like our free pharmacy discount card, these things can be accessed in just a few clicks on your phone!

If you type “budget” into an app store, you will likely find more than 150 different options to consider. Overwhelming! To save you time, we have compiled a short list of three popular, well-reviewed, and frequently updated mobile budget applications for you to consider. and the free Mint app from Intuit, Inc (the makers of QuickBooks and TurboTax) is considered by many to be the best all-around budgeting tool available today. The beauty of this option is that it is a “one stop shop” – you can connect all of your accounts (bank, credit cards, etc.), manage all of your bill paying, and track all of your spending to a budget that you set yourself, all in one interface. Plan to spend a little time getting set up and then prepare to be held accountable!

YNAB was designed to do one thing and do it well – help you to get out of debt and stop living paycheck to paycheck. The YNAB tool focuses on four rules to help you get your life in order: Give every dollar a job, plan for infrequent expenses, roll with the punches if you overspend, and learn how to live on last month's income. If you are struggling to make meaningful progress on your loan payments or if you feel your family sliding deeper and deeper into debt, the YNAB free trial is worth a try. With any luck, you’ll not only create a budget that works for your family, but you’ll also become more financially savvy for the future.

Do you know how much money you spent yesterday? How about last week? If expense tracking isn’t your strength, the free Wally app is here to make it much easier. Wally creators say their goal is to “give you a 360 view on your money; what comes in, what goes out, what you have saved, what you have budgeted.” Wally reviewers love the fact that users can track expenses by snapping photos of their receipts, making daily expense logging much faster and easier than with other budgeting tools.

Don’t Forget – FamilyWize Has an App Too!
Are you regularly spending a lot of money on prescription medications? Regardless of your insurance situation, the Free Prescription Discount Card from FamilyWize can help you to spend less money on your family’s prescription drugs. Download the free app today.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Ask an Expert: Surprising Side Effects from Common Medications

This post is part of our “Ask an Expert” blog series. In this post, Ken Majkowski, Pharm.D and Chief Pharmacy Officer at FamilyWize, addresses some surprising side effects that can occur with commonly used medications. Ken brings more than 40 years of healthcare experience to the FamilyWize team, including 14 years of clinical pharmacy experience in retail, hospital, and home care. Read his full bio, here.

While you might know that you can get discounted prices on your prescriptions through the FamilyWize free Rx prescription discount card, it’s important to think about  the side effects of the medicines you take. When most people think of the potential side effects of their prescription drugs, they tend to think of warnings to not operate heavy machinery (due to drowsiness) or to not take medication on an empty stomach (to avoid nausea). But, did you know that some commonly prescribed medications might also affect your hearing or eyesight?

Medications That May Affect Your Hearing
According to information from Consumer Reports, some 500,000 Americans face drug-related hearing loss each year. Several commonly used over-the-counter pain relievers, including aspirin, ibuprofen (e.g. Advil and Motrin), and naproxen (e.g. Aleve and Naprosyn) have been connected with temporary tinnitus and hearing loss.
Tinnitus is a ringing, buzzing, or roaring in the ear when no noise is present. The Mayo Clinic encourages anyone who develops tinnitus, or any disruption to his or her hearing, to visit a doctor – particularly if it develops suddenly or after a respiratory infection.

Certain antibiotics – including amikacin, kanamycin, neomycin, streptomycin, tobramycin – are connected with permanent hearing loss. It is important to note that these antibiotics are given either in the muscle (IM) or in the vein (IV) for very serious infections, and they are often lifesaving. If you notice any change in your senses while taking an antibiotic, speak to your doctor immediately. He or she may be able to change the dose to correct the problem or change medications to protect you from additional damage.

Medications That May Affect Your Vision
Medications can cause a variety of vision issues, from temporary blurred vision or double vision, to larger issues like cataracts or permanent optic nerve damage. Alpha-blockers (for high blood pressure or enlarged prostate), certain antibiotics, popular erectile dysfunction drugs, and some osteoporosis drugs have been known to cause blurred vision or double vision. Some alpha-blockers may also affect cataract surgery.

More seriously, corticosteroids, like prednisone, Medrol, and triamcinolone, which are used for allergies, autoimmune disorders, and a variety of other conditions – irrespective of how they are administered – can lead to cataracts. Even long-term use of inhaled and intranasal steroids can precipitate cataracts. Corticosteroids are often used for life-threatening diseases, so tell your doctor if you notice a change in vision.

If you notice any side effects related to your vision, or if you have a family history of or existing cataracts, speak to your pharmacist or doctor. Cataracts have a high treatment success rate (99.9 percent) and are treated with an outpatient procedure that is covered by Medicare and commercial insurance.

Side effects related to vision and hearing occur more rarely than drowsiness or stomach upset, but they still happen and must be quickly addressed.

Interested in more information? Check out the Food & Drug Administration’s consumer webpage for Learning about Side Effects. And to save money on your prescriptions, download the free prescription discount card from FamilyWize.


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Photosensitivity: What it is and How to Stay Safe

At the end of spring, when warm weather looks like it is finally here to stay, store shelves are lined with an overwhelming selection of sunscreens. Besides protecting your family from sunburn, premature aging, and (most importantly) skin cancer, you may have a fourth reason for purchasing plenty of sunscreen this summer –photosensitivity.  

What is Photosensitivity?
Photosensitivity (or sun sensitivity) is when sun exposure combines with certain medications to cause painful skin inflammation, similar to sunburn. The rash, while very uncomfortable, typically clears up fairly quickly once the medication is discontinued and cleared from the body. This can occur regardless of age or how long you have been taking a medication and is linked to a variety of different drugs.

Which Medications Cause Photosensitivity?
Our prescription savings card can make your medicines cheaper, but it’s important to be aware of their side effects. The following medications are more likely to cause sun sensitivity than other drugs:
      Acne treatments, particularly prescription retinoids, but also over-the-counter products containing salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, can cause photosensitivity.
      Antibiotics, particularly the commonly prescribed Bactrim or sulfamethoxozole trimethoprim, can cause photosensitivity.
      Allergy medications, specifically oral antihistamines, can affect the body’s ability to sweat, which can lead to a sun/heat-induced skin reaction.
      Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), both prescribed and over-the-counter, can cause differing levels of photosensitivity.
      Vitamins and herbs, specifically St. John’s Wort and Niacin, have been linked to photosensitivity.

How Can Photosensitivity Be Prevented or Treated?
First, never skip a dose of a prescribed treatment because you plan to go sunbathing. Instead, speak with your pharmacist about your sun exposure, particularly if you are planning a beach vacation or another similar summer activity while taking a medication or a supplement.

Second, check the drug label. Drugs with serious sun interactions should have those side effects listed on the label. Please take those warnings seriously and use precaution to avoid a reaction.

Third, use common sense and protect your skin. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that you:
      Seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM.
      Avoid tanning and UV tanning beds.
      Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
      Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day.
      Use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher for extended outdoor activity.
      Apply one ounce of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside.
      Reapply sunscreen every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.

As you enjoy the sunshine this summer, take care to protect yourself from overexposure and skin damage. If you are currently taking one of the medications listed above, you have an additional reason to be careful. FamilyWize encourages you to stay safe in the sun this summer! And to save on prescription costs all year round, download our free pharmacy discount card.


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Three Things to Check on Your Prescription Label – Every Time!

If you are like most people, when you pick up a new prescription at the drug store, you smile as you take the bag from the pharmacist, show your medication savings card, pay, and leave … never actually opening the bag until you get home. What you may not realize is that prescription labels (required by federal law) provide a wealth of information. By quickly reviewing the label for three key things before you leave the pharmacy counter, you can help to ensure that your prescription will be administered and dosed correctly – keeping you and your family safe.

Your Prescription Drug Label – Three Things You Should Always Check:

1. Your name
It sounds so simple, but it takes less than one second for you to check and make sure that the person behind the counter didn’t accidentally give you someone else’s prescription by mistake. Medication errors aside, a misspelled name or incorrect address can cause huge insurance headaches – better to catch and correct the issue before you leave the pharmacy.

2. Your dosing and storage instructions
For most people, the dosing instructions are the only thing they read on a prescription drug label – and usually not until they’re ready to take it for the first time. Check the instructions before you walk away from the counter to see if you have any questions about how your medication should be administered. As a bonus, if the pharmacist sees you reading the label, they might offer additional tips that are not included on the printout (like that amoxicillin doesn’t require refrigeration, but often tastes better to toddlers when it is kept very cold).

3. Your refill instructions
Many pharmacists will tell you that the majority of the questions they answer on any given day are related to prescription refills. Most prescription drug labels include this information on the bottle. Take a quick look at the label to confirm those details and ask if they aren’t immediately clear. You will save everyone some time when your current course of medication runs out.

Check out our graphic below for additional information about what is included on a prescription drug label and be sure to ask your pharmacist if you have any questions.  

Looking to save a few dollars on your next trip to the pharmacy? Regardless of your insurance situation, the Free FamilyWize Prescription Discount Card can help you to save money on your family’s prescription drugs. Get your own free prescription savings card or download the app today.