7 new drugstore services

New online pharmacists, customized pills—here's what we think is worth trying

Published: November 2014

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1. Private consultations

In a survey of Consumer Reports subscribers, a third of chain-pharmacy and big-box store shoppers said they were reluctant to discuss medical issues with pharmacists because they seemed too busy. To counter that perception, some Walgreens stores have moved a pharmacist to a desk up front; other pharmacies have created consultation areas that are separate from the pickup counter.

See the 12 surprising new drugstore perks and how to find the best pharmacy for you

2. Everything in an app

Costco, CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart have apps that let you shop for, manage, and transfer your prescriptions. Costco’s app is also good for checking and comparing drug prices.

For more information on other apps that we liked, and some we didn't read "Can a phone app help you find cheaper drugs?"

3. Personalized packaging

Sam’s Club, Walmart, and some independent drugstores will dispense your pills into individualized daily packets rather than vials, so you can tell at a glance that a dose has been taken. Many independents also offer “com­pounding”—that is, customizing a drug by omitting a dye for an allergic patient, creating a liquid version for a patient who has trouble swallowing pills, or adding a flavor to a child’s medicine to make it more palatable.

4. Online chats

If you forget to take your pills or think you might be having a non-urgent reaction to them, Rite­Aid and Walgreens provide 24-hour online chats. Con­fidential and free to registered users, the chats connect patients with pharmacists to discuss medication-related concerns, such as drug interactions and side effects.

5. Expedited refills

Photo: Fuse/getty Images

At Walgreens you can skip the line by picking up refills at one of its self-service kiosks. Most chain drugstores let you order refills online or by mobile app and will text or phone when the refill is ready. Kroger, RiteAid, Walgreens, and other pharmacies will put your refills on autopilot, readying them for pickup automatically a few days before your supply runs out. And a growing number of pharmacies provide refill synchronization: The pharmacist coordinates all of your refills so that they happen at the same time, thus eliminating multiple trips to the drugstore.

6. Self-tracking wellness programs

In 2015, RiteAid will roll out 4,100 digital kiosks, where customers can take their vital signs, including blood pressure, height, and weight, and set up an account to track their data, link the data to a health record that pings their doctor and pharmacist, and work toward wellness goals.

7 . Safe, simple drug disposal

Many big-box stores and pharmacies will accept and dispose of unused and expired medications, to keep them from ending up in the wrong hands or being disposed of in a way that pollutes water systems. Target, for instance, provides return bags for mailing unused medications directly to a location for safe disposal. The online service DisposeMyMeds.org has a pharmacy locator that can help you find nearby pharmacies that accept leftover medications.

How can I safely dispose of my medication?

Editor's Note:

This article originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of the Consumer Reports On Health newsletter. These materials were made possible by a grant from the state Attorney General Consumer and Prescriber Education Grant Program, which is funded by a multistate settlement of consumer fraud claims regarding the marketing of the prescription drug Neurontin (gabapentin).

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