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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury



A pharmacy is a place where you can buy medicines, have a prescription filled and learn more about managing medicines and your health.

You can visit a pharmacy as your first point of call if you aren't sure what your health needs are. Pharmacy staff are trained to help you get to the right person or agency to help you get better. They're also trained to help you stay well.

There is a pharmacist available at every local pharmacy.

What pharmacists do

Pharmacists are experts in medicines. They can answer your questions about:

Most pharmacies have a private area. Even if you do not see one, tell your pharmacist if you want to discuss your health issues in private.

Pharmacists dispense medicines that your general practice team has prescribed. Dispensing involves safely preparing the medicines, counting the doses and labelling the containers. It also involves giving people appropriate advice about the medicines and making sure they understand the advice.

Some medicines are pharmacist-only medicines (or restricted medicines). This means that a pharmacist can supply them without a prescription. But you can only buy these medicines after seeking advice from a pharmacist. This is because the pharmacist needs to ask you questions to make sure the medicine is safe for you and to check you're taking it for the right condition. These medicines include emergency contraceptives and some pain relief.

All medicines supplied from a pharmacy must be done so under a pharmacist's supervision. This also applies to over-the-counter medicines that you can buy elsewhere, like paracetamol.

With your permission, pharmacists can also access your shared health records to help them make sure your medicines are right for you.

Pharmacy services

Pharmacies can help you manage your medicines. This can help if you have a long-term health condition such as diabetes, heart disease or a lung condition. It can also help if you take a lot of different medicines or sometimes forget to take your medicines.

Pharmacy services can also include time with your pharmacist, yellow cards, medicine charts or calendars, reminders for repeat prescriptions and aids such as weekly or monthly blister packs.

Other services you may be able to get at your local pharmacy include:

Pharmacists can also provide medicine reviews and help managing medicines. If you have trouble remembering to take your medicines and you have two or more long-term conditions (such as asthma and diabetes), you may be able to get a medicine review with your local pharmacist. Ask your pharmacist or general practice team if you're eligible for this service.

For information about medicine reviews, see the University of Otago's Tips for your medicine review pamphlet in the links at the bottom of this page.

Pharmacist qualifications

Pharmacists must complete a four-year university degree and a year-long internship before registering with the New Zealand Pharmacy Council. To keep practising, pharmacists must hold an annual practising certificate.

Each community pharmacy must display a pharmacy licence.

Your pharmacy may also have pharmacy technicians and pharmacy assistants. Pharmacy technicians dispense medicines and work under the supervision of a pharmacist, while pharmacy assistants work outside of the dispensary. Both can either train on the job or gain a qualification through full-time study.

If you have any concerns about the professional service you receive from a pharmacist, you can make a complaint to the New Zealand Pharmacy Council. You can also find out more about your health rights.

Pharmacist costs

Most prescribed medicines are subsidised by the Government, so you do not have to pay for the medicines you receive.

You have to pay a co-payment for prescriptions from specialists and non-publicly funded prescribers. The Prescription subsidy scheme means you and your whānau (family) do not need to pay this prescription change once you've paid for 20 items each year. Tell your pharmacist the names of all the people in your whānau who are getting prescriptions so they can keep track of how many prescriptions you pay for.

Some prescription medicines and some services, such as blister packs and home deliveries, may have a charge. Prices can vary, so ask your pharmacy what their cost is. If in doubt, ask the pharmacy to explain any unexpected charges and how you can avoid them.

There is usually no charge for health advice from a pharmacist.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed March 2023.


Page reference: 63136

Review key: HIPHA-44732