You go to the doctor for your regular check-up, receive several prescriptions to be filled and then realize that you already have plenty of pills in your bottle for some prescriptions. You may also have a couple of refills remaining. So, how long can you hold onto a prescription before having it filled at the pharmacy? It varies. Some states have a 120-day limit while some have a one-year limit.

So, check with your local pharmacist right away to see what your time limit is. If you miss the deadline, you will be asked to get new prescriptions, or your pharmacist will have to call your prescriber for new scripts. This may slightly delay you getting your medicine in a timely manner.

I recommend that you go ahead and submit your prescriptions to the pharmacy as soon as you get them. You can simply ask that the prescriptions be “put on file” until you need them. That way, your medicine will be ready when you need it with no delays.

Q: I read that milk of magnesia can be used to treat acne. Should I try it?

A:  Sorry, but there’s no proof that milk of magnesia (magnesium hydroxide) applied topically improves acne, and all the self-help blog and advice columns won’t change that. In fact, it can irritate sensitive skin. Normal skin pH is acidic and milk of magnesia is alkaline. Try products containing ingredients proven to treat acne, such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid and their combinations. If over-the-counter medicines don’t work, there are a wide range of prescription products that may help, topical retinoids, azelaic acid and topical and oral antibiotics. Meanwhile, here are a few tips. Wash skin twice daily with a mild cleanser or soap, but don’t overdo it. Over-washing can make symptoms worse. And products that clog pores, like cosmetics, can worsen acne.

Q: My boyfriend wants to remove a facial tattoo. He says he can get something from the pharmacy to do it, but I am not so sure. Is there something he can get over the counter?

A: I advise people not to use over-the-counter products for this purpose. They might lighten tattoos, but they probably won’t remove them.     

And these products contain ingredients – exfoliants, hypopigmenting agents, chemical peels or microdermabrasion tools — that can cause skin burns, infection, and scarring. To remove a tattoo, talk to your doctor about laser removal, dermabrasion or excision.      

Q: I used a pregnancy test from the pharmacy to find out that I was pregnant. My girlfriend says there is a test I can buy at the pharmacy to determine whether I’m pregnant with a boy or a girl.

A: I hate to tell you this, but your girlfriend is wrong. There are over-the-counter test kits on pharmacy shelves to determine gender, but their accuracy is questionable. I really do not recommend these tests. There are two that you’ll find fairly readily. IntelliGender Gender Prediction Test can be used as early as 10 weeks into a pregnancy. It costs $35 and claims around 82% accuracy. The test consists of mixing a morning urine sample with a cup of chemicals and then waiting 10 minutes and looking for a color change. There are no published studies of the test’s accuracy. And the company won’t reveal how it works. Pink or Blue Early Gender Test is a DNA test that can be performed as early as seven weeks of pregnancy. It costs about $150. The woman collects three drops of blood and sends it to the lab for testing. The test looks for Y-chromosomes using a polymerase chain reaction technique that claims 95% accuracy.

Again, there’s no proof that this specific test is accurate when using only a few drops of blood sent through the mail. So, I wouldn’t pick a name, paint the nursery or make any other decisions based on these results.

Do you have questions about your medication, concerns about a friend’s or relative’s prescription or just want to keep up with the latest developments. In that case, ask syndicated columnist Dr. Daphne Bernard, a doctor of pharmacy and a registered pharmacist in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. She is assistant dean and associate professor at the Howard University School of Pharmacy and a member of numerous boards and associations, including the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, the District of Columbia Board of Pharmacy, the Nonprescription Medicines Academy, Rho Chi Honor Society, American Pharmacists Association and the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, Please email her at


Dr. Daphne Bernard

Special to the AFRO