News & Events

Pharmacy hopping is a bad idea!

Kim Christoff, Pharmacist

The economy is affecting everyone! Gas prices are high and medical and prescription costs are rising. Shopping around for the best prices seems like a smart thing to do. If someone can save time, a few dollars or an extra drive across town, isn’t that just being wise? While driving to the next corner for a lower price on gas is very responsible, pharmacy hopping is not only a bad idea, for some, it could be a life-threatening choice.

What is pharmacy hopping?

Pharmacy hopping is when a person uses multiple pharmacies to fill their prescriptions. There are many reasons some people use multiple pharmacies, including:

  • Traveling and medications left at home or an emergency arises
  • Coupons offering a discounted price as a new customer
  • Pharmacy hours of operation
  • Convenience and location (being in the right place at the right time)
  • Drugs not available at the usual pharmacy and there is no time to wait to order them
  • Insurance is not accepted at the usual pharmacy

Many of these reasons sound good and logical; however, when looking at the big picture, a person needs to decide if those benefits are worth the possible problems that may occur. 
Why is pharmacy hopping harmful?

Although on the surface, pharmacy hopping seems harmless, it can have some serious and potentially deadly consequences. A pharmacist can do everything correctly with the information they have, but if they don’t have ALL the appropriate information, harm can result. When a patient sees multiple doctors and uses multiple pharmacies, there is potential for a deadly combination of medications. This is possible because one doctor or one pharmacist didn’t have all the medication history. 

Pharmacists are only as smart as the information provided to them. When a pharmacist has only limited medication information for a person, they can only give limited information and care. This situation would be similar to a patient going to a doctor to learn what was wrong, but only telling the doctor about some of their symptoms.   

Pharmacists are trained to do more than fill prescriptions, they also are trained to be aware of drug interactions or how one drug could minimize or even increase the effects of another drug. Without all of a person’s medication history and current list of information, it is difficult to prevent these harmful interactions.  

Many people think if they only see one physician provider, then it is okay to use multiple pharmacies. However, physicians rely on pharmacists to help ensure the medications prescribed do not cause harmful drug interactions. 

Additionally, many emergency room physicians will contact a patient’s pharmacy to verify what medications they currently are taking. If the pharmacy doesn’t have a complete medication profile, the physician may cause harm to the patient by prescribing another or a wrong medication. This can often be the case in emergency situations.

Pharmacists know the importance of using one pharmacy. It isn’t about your business; rather, it is about people’s health! Communication is the best way to overcome the reasons for hopping in the first place. When someone feels the need to change or use other pharmacies, it would be beneficial to discuss these reasons with their pharmacist. Often there are easy solutions for the perceived concerns. Pharmacists, like other healthcare providers, are there to provide the best care possible for to their customers.

Kim Christoff, R.Ph., is a pharmacist at FMC’s Flagstaff Pharmacy. Is there a health topic you’d like to know more about? Please write to Mountain Medicine, c/o FMC Public Relations, 1200 N. Beaver St., Flagstaff, AZ 86001, or visit