Ask a Pharmacist

Ask a Pharmacist

When you walk into a pharmacy, prescription in hand, what should you expect? As you watch all those people in white coats, do you feel intimidated?

Have you ever left a pharmacy wishing you had asked more questions?

We have prepared checklists for some of the most common scenarios to help you.

It means changes to provincial laws to recognize pharmacists as prescribers of drugs.

Under a combination of federal and provincial laws, most drugs are only available by prescription. That is because it takes a trained professional to make the decision that these drugs are appropriate for you. When that decision occurs, that professional can issue a prescription for you when the law permits.

The federal law over regular prescription drugs recognizes pharmacists as prescribers when the same occurs under provincial laws. The laws in Saskatchewan have been changed to allow pharmacists to issue prescriptions under certain circumstances where they are trained to do so.

No, your pharmacist cannot prescribe Controlled Substances.

They include narcotics and other mood-modifying drugs. Pharmacists cannot prescribe drugs that can cause addiction or dependency and abuse.

While some medications are believed to have no effect on fetal development, some drugs may not be safe when taken by pregnant women.

“My pharmacist has been an excellent resource providing me with detailed information and high quality advice on the medications I needed to take during my pregnancy.  I trust his judgment because he has taken the time to ask me important questions; get to know me, my medical history and my needs as his patient.”

Jennifer, Regina

As the drug expert on your healthcare team, your pharmacist will be able to determine which of your medications are deemed safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and will work with your physician to weigh the risks and benefits of medication therapy.

  • If I get pregnant while on this medication, what should I do?
  • If you are taking medications while breastfeeding, what side effects should you watch out for in the baby?

Do your best to answers to the following questions for your pharmacist:

If pregnant

  • What trimester are you in? Some drugs are not safe to take in certain trimesters.
  • Have there been any complications from your pregnancy such as diabetes and blood pressure changes? Some drugs may make these conditions worse. 
  • Which prenatal vitamins are you currently taking? Your nutritional requirements may increase during pregnancy and your pharmacist can help determine the best supplement for you.  

If breastfeeding

  • How often do you breastfeed throughout the day? Some drugs can be dosed around breastfeeding times.   


  • What basic items should be stored in a well-stocked medicine cabinet?
    • to treat cuts and scrapes
    • in case of poisoning
    • for basic first aid
    • for flu season
    • for sun exposure

Check out our Tips for a well-stocked medicine cabinet.

These are some of the questions that your pharmacist can answer. 

  • What is this medicine for?
  • What is the active ingredient? What else does it have in it?
  • Is it OK for children?
  • Is it OK for people with XYZ condition?
  • Is there a generic brand with the same active ingredient?
  • Can I have the information leaflet for it?
  • How does this medicine work?
  • What can I expect to happen?
  • Will I feel any different?
  • How long will it take to work?
  • How should I use this medicine?
  • How much should I take? And, at what times of the day?
  • How long do I need to take it for?
  • How should I store this medicine?
  • What should I do if I forget to take a dose?
  • What about side effects?
  • What should I do if I get a side effect?
  • Are there any medicines I should not take at the same time as this one?
  • Are there any special instructions?
  • How do I use this device (eg, a puffer or spacer)?
  • I have trouble swallowing tablets? What can I do?
  • I can’t get the lid off the bottle. What can I do?

Check out our Tips for taking over-the-counter medication(s).


Please talk to your pharmacist. Take advantage of your pharmacist’s knowledge about non-prescription drugs and alternative therapies.

Your medicine can only work correctly if it is administered properly in the body. Your pharmacist can help you with how to use:

  • Ear Drops
  • Eye Drops 
  • Eye Ointments and Gels
  • Liquid Medications
  • Metered-Dose Inhalers
  • Nasal Pump Sprays
  • Nasal Sprays
  • Nose Drops
  • Suppositories
  • Transdermal Patches
  • Vaginal Tablets, Suppositories, and Creams

Be sure that:

  • You have the right medicine. If you’ve bought the medicine before, make sure this medicine has the same shape, color, size, markings, and packaging. Anything different? Ask your pharmacist. If it seems different when you use it, tell your pharmacist, doctor, or other healthcare professional.
  • You know the right dose for the medicine and you know how to use it. Any questions? Ask your pharmacist.
  • There is a measuring spoon, cup, or syringe for liquid medicine. If the medicine doesn’t come with a special measuring tool, ask your pharmacist about one. Spoons used for eating and cooking may give the wrong dose.
  • You have any information the pharmacist can give you about the medicine. Read it and save it.
  • You get the pharmacy phone number, so you can call should you need to.

Pharmacists make sure your prescriptions are safe, appropriate and effectively tailored for you.

By Beth Kessler

A day in the life of a pharmacist is more than dispensing your medication. Find out more here.


In many pharmacies, pharmacists have pharmacy technicians to assist with the day-to-day technical functions, so that pharmacists can focus their time on patient care responsibilities.

Pharmacy technicians

  • support pharmacists by performing duties that do not require the professional skills of a pharmacist
  • assist in the duties that require the expertise of a pharmacist
  • are involved in preparing drugs, entering drug orders, controlling pharmacy inventory
  • maintain the function of complex equipment
  • obtain insurance authorizations.

Pharmacy technicians are licensed, regulated professionals who are designated through the Saskatchewan College of Pharmacy Professionals. They are employed in every practice setting where there is a pharmacy including community, hospital and long-term care pharmacies.

Other staff may include pharmacy assistants who is “an unregulated person who is not an intern, and who is employed in a pharmacy to assist the licensed pharmacist or licensed pharmacy technician in performing functions.”

For more information on the scope of practice for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, click here.

* Source of definition for pharmacy assistant is from the Saskatchewan College of Pharmacy Professionals.

There is a lot more to preparing your prescription than counting pills, typing a label and sticking it on a container.Your pharmacist checks:

  • the information provided by your doctor, dentist, or other health care provider is complete
  • the medication, strength, and dosage instructions to make sure they are right for you
  • you are not allergic to the medication
  • reviews your confidential Electronic Health Record (EHR) profile to check for potential problems such as duplicate therapy or drug interactions
  • enters the details of your current prescription onto your Electronic Health Record (EHR) profile

Once your prescription is filled and checked your pharmacist talks to you about why you have been prescribed this particular drug. S/he counsels you on how and when to take your medication, what potential side effects you may need to watch for and how to store your medication.

The total cost of your prescription from a community pharmacy is the sum of:

  • the pharmacy’s drug cost
  • a small markup
  • the professional fee which is sometimes referred to as the dispensing fee. The professional fee covers the operating costs of the pharmacy (salaries, computers and programs, rent, heat, electricity and dispensing supplies), plus the many services your pharmacist provides.

Pharmacists are drug therapy experts and are responsible for comprehensive medication therapy management.

Your pharmacist’s main responsibility is to find, fix and prevent drug-related problems. Many medications can be used for more than one medical condition. In order to ensure that your medications are appropriate for you and that you will get the most benefit from them, your pharmacist has to understand why you are taking the medications.

Your pharmacist will consider each of your medications and discuss with you how you can achieve the best health outcome.

All pharmacists are licensed health care professionals governed by provincial legislation. In Saskatchewan, many pharmacists are graduates of the  University of Saskatchewan’s College of Pharmacy and Nutrition and hold a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy (BSP) or Doctorate of Pharmacy.

Pharmacists are required to upgrade their drug therapy and patient care knowledge by attending conferences, educational events and through self-learning, in order to get licensed to practice pharmacy every year. 

In Saskatchewan, pharmacists must register with the Saskatchewan College of Pharmacy Professionals (SCPP) to obtain their license to practice pharmacy.

In order to ensure that your medications are appropriate for you and that you will get the most benefit from them, your pharmacist has to understand why you are taking the medications.

Sometimes s/he needs to contact your doctor to confirm the reason the medication has been prescribed or s/he may have some suggestions on a different medication or a different dosage that might work better for you. S/he may also want to talk the doctor about the other medications you are on, especially if there is a possibility of an interaction between two or more of your medications.