Pharmacy Inventory: Starting Over

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Dec 9, 2015 7:53:23 AM

The Frustrated Pharmacist


Have you fallen victim to one or more of the 5 Common Pharmacy Inventory Pitfalls? Does your inventory count in your pharmacy software never match what’s on your shelf? Maybe it’s time to wipe the slate clean and start again.

Many pharmacy software programs have a way to clear your current inventory (You can see how to do this in WinRx in a recent tutorial video posted by CRX University.) or integrate an incremental inventory count into your workflow. 

Starting Over with Your Pharmacy Inventory

When you choose to start over with your invenory you have two options: full count or incremental.

Full Count

Once your inventory is cleared it’s time to start over by recounting your inventory.

During a full count inventory you and your staff go through your entire inventory, shelf by shelf, pouring out the bottles, counting the medication, logging it in the software and replacing the medication to the shelf.

This method has its advantages and disadvantages.


  • All the counting is done at once and the new inventory count is ready for the next day of business.
  • Once count is complete you are provided with the most current cost of goods in stock for financial reporting.


  • In order to not make errors in counting and for customer service reasons, a full count is best to take place on a day when the business is closed or after closing one evening.
  • A full count can take several hours, depending on the number of staff brought in for the count and the size of your inventory.
  • If the payroll budget is a bit tight, paying employees for extra hours may not be realistic for your pharmacy.

A full count is typically used by busier pharmacies with a large staff. With this method part of the staff can be brought in to work late one night after the store closes, and they don’t have to worry about trying to count while they're busy filling prescriptions.


An incremental count takes place over time, generally as you dispense the medications. However, we do recommend counting your fast-moving prescriptions all at once and during a time when you don’t have to worry about patients needing your attention. In many pharmacies this could be done in 30 minutes to an hour by one person.

For slower-moving prescriptions you can count them during the day, while filling prescriptions:

  1. Pull medication bottle to fill prescription
  2. Pour out and count all medication
  3. Input this number into your pharmacy software inventory
  4. Fill prescription as normal

Your software should automatically subtract the medication you used to fill the prescription from inventory after you indicate that it has been filled.

Incremental counting is better for less busy pharmacies that can spare a few extra minutes at the fill station to count the entire medication while filling. Incremental also works better for small-staffed pharmacies. A full count can take hours, and you don’t want to close business or ask your staff to stay late if they have adequate time to count during their shift.


The method you use is really based on what works best for your pharmacy business.

The most important thing to remember once you’ve counted and reorganized your inventory is to not fall into old practices. If you’re going to put forth the time and effort to start over with your inventory be sure to have a meeting with your staff, point out problem areas that you may have noticed and train them on best practices.

If you struggle with locating inventory issues I encourage to look at our 5 Common Pharmacy Inventory Pitfalls post.

Pro Tips for Counting Inventory

  • Before counting inventory check will-call bins for overdue prescriptions that haven’t been picked up. Add these medications back to your stock.
  • Using pill counting automation, like Kirby Lester or Eyecon, will help to eliminate error and possibly expedite the counting process.
  • Check your return to wholesaler or manufacturer shelf and include those medications in the inventory.
  • Before counting inventory separate out of date stock.