Consumer Information

What You Should Know About Pharmacists and Their Services


What is the practice of "pharmacy," and what services do pharmacists perform?

Pharmacy refers to the preparation and dispensing of drugs as well as the counseling of patients in the proper use of these drugs.

How does my pharmacist ensure the safety and accuracy of my prescription?

New York pharmacists must store medications under controlled environments. This includes protection from heat, light, and tampering.

Many pharmacists use systems to ensure that....

  • each prescription is filled accurately and safely
  • the dispensed drugs do not interact poorly with other drugs, foods, or dietary supplements
  • each individual is screened for known allergies to medications

What preparation is required before someone can be licensed as a New York pharmacist?

To become a New York pharmacist, an applicant must have a minimum of a five-year Bachelor of Science degree in pharmacy, including courses in anatomy, biology, chemistry, physiology, and pharmacology. Applicants for the license must also complete an internship and pass written and practical licensing examinations.

To keep current in their profession, all practicing New York licensed pharmacists are required to take continuing education courses regularly.

Before I begin to take any medication, what should I be sure to tell my health care provider and pharmacist?

  • The names of all prescription and nonprescription medicines you take, including the conditions for which you take them.
  • If you are allergic to any medications.
  • If you have any problems with any medicines.
  • If you are, or could be, pregnant.
  • If you are a smoker.

When my prescription is dispensed, what information should I expect to receive?

When your pharmacist counsels you about your prescription, the pharmacist may discuss the following information with you:

  • The medicine's name
  • What it is supposed to do
  • When the medicine should be taken and for how long
  • How the medicine should be taken
  • Common side effects
  • Foods, drinks, other medicines, or activities you should avoid while taking the medicine
  • What you should do if you miss a dose
  • How you should store the medicine
  • If there are any refills of the prescription

Is it important that I take medications as prescribed?

Yes, it is very important. Not taking your medications as prescribed can produce serious, disabling health complications.

If you have trouble remembering or understanding the directions for a medication's use, call your pharmacist for the information you need.

If I have a prescription that has authorized refills remaining, can I refill it at a pharmacy other than the one at which the prescription was first filled?

Yes, pharmacists may transfer refills from one pharmacy to another. This service will be provided only when a patient asks a pharmacist to send the prescription to another pharmacy.

May a prescription be sent electronically from the prescriber's office directly to a pharmacist?

Yes, if the prescriber and pharmacist have a secure (encrypted or encoded) system for electronic transmission from computer to computer, or by fax. Such systems help to ensure the accuracy of the prescription information while preventing an unauthorized person or firm from accessing confidential information. Whether you deliver your prescription personally or it is sent verbally or electronically, you have the right to choose your pharmacy. You also have the right to ask your prescriber for a written prescription.

How can I avoid harmful drug interactions?

Obtain all of your prescription medications at the same pharmacy, or keep careful records of the medications you are taking. Bring these records to the attention of health care providers and pharmacists who may not be familiar with your complete medical history.

Always let your health care provider or pharmacist know if you have an unexpected reaction to a medication.

Are all medications that are sold without a prescription, or "over the counter" drugs, free from side effects?

No. Many "over the counter" medications were prescription drugs at one time, and many contain the same active ingredients as prescription drugs.

Before you take any medication, including "over the counter" drugs, seek the advice of your pharmacist or physician.

What questions should individuals with disabilities ask about accessing services?

Ask such questions as whether the service location is physically accessible (curb cuts, ramps, restrooms, etc.) as well as whether there is a Telecommunication Device for the Deaf (TDD) and parking for people with disabilities. You may also ask if a delivery service is available.

Verifying a New York License

New York pharmacists must display a current New York registration certificate; this certificate lists the professional's name, address, and dates of the registration period. Pharmacists must reregister every three years to practice in New York. Some professionals also display their original New York license, diploma, licenses from other states, and membership certificates. You may verify an individual's license and registration on this site.

Last Updated: July 1, 2009