Make a Plan
Here are some things to consider when you have an allergy to an inactive ingredient:
1. Ask for the product insert at the pharmacy. Bring reading glasses – the print is always very small!
2. If they want to know why, tell them you have an allergy to an inactive ingredient.
3. If they ask which ingredient, you can tell them, but sometimes they will try to look it up for you. I tell them I can usually scan for it fairly quickly. If they insist on looking it up, I carry a list of synonyms for glycols in my wallet and it’s three pages long, single spaced and double sided. I will set that on the counter with a smile and say, “Here’s what I’m screening for,” and they will usually just hand me the insert. Step away form the window (before you pay for the prescription) so you don’t block traffic while you’re reading, and fold the insert up nicely when you’re done.
4. If no insert, ask for the NDC number. Not all pharmacies put the NDCs on their label, but the number is on the original bottle in the pharmacy, and is often in the paperwork you get with your receipt. If the person at the counter doesn’t know what that is, ask for a tech or pharmacist in your friendliest voice. They usually know what an NDC number is, but some clerks may not know that the spaces or dashes are important, so ask if you’re not sure.
5. Write down the NDC, the dosage, and the manufacturer (before paying). Step away from the counter (or go home) to look up the number on druginserts.com, or on drugs.com. Include all dashes. If you can’t find the drug and there are leading zeroes, you can try dropping – or adding them. Note that the last two digits rarely matter because it’s the number of units to a package.
6. If you still can’t find it, go to the manufacturer’s website and look it up there. This is usually more time consuming because their websites are not organized for consumers looking up ingredients.
7. If you find out that the medication has an ingredient you can’t take, try another pharmacy. Where we live, there are three pharmacy suppliers used by local pharmacies. After awhile, you will learn which pharmacies order from a different supplier and you can save some time that way.
In our area, Fred Meyer orders from one supplier, Safeway orders from another, and Bi-Mart from another supplier. All the others in town order from one of those same suppliers. So I try my pharmacy first, then Bi Mart, then Safeway. If they carry it but they’re just out, I try another pharmacy that I know gets supplies from the same distributor.
8. If all else fails, find a compounding pharmacy, like New Era, (formerly Stroheckers), that can mail order your prescription. Much more expensive, but if you need it, you need it. Some insurance companies will take a note from your doc about your allergy and allow a compounded version with a higher copay.
Here’s an example of what I do when I need a new prescription. I’ll use amoxicillin as an example:
My nurse-practitioner gives me the name of her first choice – let’s say Amoxicillin, including dosage – 500mg capsules, and a couple alternatives.
Before she writes the actual prescription, I call my pharmacy and ask for the NDC and manufacturer of the 500 mg Amoxcillin caps they carry. I also ask if they have Amoxicillin in a different dosage, or by a different manufacturer, or in a different form, such as tablet, liquid, capsule, or even transdermal (applied to the skin). Then I look them all up.
If the first pharmacy doesn’t have it, I call the other two pharmacies. If no one has it, I try the alternatives she suggested, doing the same process.
It’s a lot of work, but it gets easier as you go along. I use this same process if my regular pharmacy suddenly gets the same drug I’ve been taking for years from a different manufacturer. They just get what’s the cheapest, and that sometime means switching manufacturers.