What is a 24 Hour Pharmacy?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

It’s often stated that life doesn’t occur on a nine-to-five schedule. People have a number of needs that must be met at all hours of the day or night. Recognition of this concept has come in numerous forms with lots of businesses from laundromats to fitness centers remaining open on a 24 hour schedule. Nowhere is this idea more prominent than in businesses that run a 24 hour pharmacy. These are pharmacies that will allow people to fill prescriptions at any time during the day or night.

Some services offered during the day are not offered at night.
Some services offered during the day are not offered at night.

A number of larger well-known pharmacy companies operate at least one 24 hour pharmacy. There are usually quite a few to choose from in urban areas, and at least one in suburban places. They’re not only available in the US, and people may be able to find these shops in lots of countries in the world. They may have a few features in common that are worth noting.

People can expect to pay a little more for the convenience of 24 hour pharmacy access.
People can expect to pay a little more for the convenience of 24 hour pharmacy access.

Many times during the off hours or graveyard shift period, services could be more limited. For example, if a pharmacy offers flu shots during the day, it probably won’t maintain this service at night. This means that principally a person is likely to be able to get a prescription filled, and consult with a pharmacist about the prescription, if needed.

24 hour pharmacies are helpful for people who need emergency medication late at night.
24 hour pharmacies are helpful for people who need emergency medication late at night.

Depending on the individual pharmacy, the way a prescription is obtained may be different. Sometimes the actual store that surrounds the 24 hour pharmacy is not operated on a 24 hour schedule. This usually suggests that people will use a drive up window to have their prescription filled. They will still have access to a pharmacy consult with a pharmacist, in most cases, but they won’t be able to go into a store and buy any other things they might need. The bottle of aspirin or milk of magnesia might need to wait until the morning.

The convenience of a 24 hour pharmacy may cause the prices of medications to increase.
The convenience of a 24 hour pharmacy may cause the prices of medications to increase.

As convenient as a 24 hour pharmacy is, it may have some hidden disadvantages. Typically, fewer people will use one of these at night, but the shop still must retain the services of a pharmacist, probably paying extra to this employee for working an off shift. This may raise costs, which could be felt by the customer in a number of ways. Drug prices might rise, or more often, other things the pharmacy sells like over the counter drugs go up in price. People can expect to pay a little more for the convenience of 24 hour access.

Many people don’t mind a little extra costs if it means they can fill prescriptions at their leisure or get one when it is really necessary. It should be noted that if, late at night, people are in the hospital emergency room and receive a prescription, they usually don’t have to look around for a 24 hour pharmacy to fill it. Many people can get the hospital to give enough doses of medicine until the next day or the hospital pharmacy may be able to fill the full prescription, since these also operate on a 24 hour schedule.

Many hospitals have 24-hour daily pharmacy services.
Many hospitals have 24-hour daily pharmacy services.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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