When you or someone you love starts a new prescription medication, it may be difficult to know what to ask your pharmacist. Try these five questions to get this important conversation started.
Guest post by:
Ken Biddle, PharmD candidate
Ohio Northern University
“Do you have any questions for the pharmacist?”
If you’ve ever picked up a prescription from the pharmacy, you’ve most likely been asked something similar to this. Even though this question is meant to provide an avenue to learn about your medication, it can sometimes seem unhelpful, especially if you are starting a new medication.
How are you supposed to know what to ask about the medication if you don’t know much about it to begin with? Furthermore, it is likely when starting a new medication that you have so many questions that you don’t know where to begin.
So, what are the most important things to know? My purpose is to give you the most important questions to ask to start the conversation about your medication. It is by no means a list of every question you might ask, and you should always feel free to ask your pharmacist ANY questions that you have about your medication at any time.
Here are the five best questions to ask to get that conversation started.
#1 — What is this medication used for?
This is a question that is not often asked, but it should be. Although your doctor should explain to you why they are giving you a particular medication, it can be easy to become distracted or confused, especially if you have been recently diagnosed with a new condition or are being prescribed several new medications at once.
If you are at all unsure as to why you have been prescribed a medication, ask! Knowing what your medications are used for is key in taking ownership of your healthcare.
#2 — How should I take this medication?
Another potential problem area can be in the directions for taking your medication. While directions for some medications are pretty straightforward, others can be a bit more confusing. It is important to take your medication correctly in order for it to work properly and not cause harm. Again, if you have any questions as far as the directions for your medication, ask!
#3 — Which side effects are considered normal and which are not?
Every medication causes side effects. Occasionally, some people may experience effects of a medication that are serious and abnormal. It is important to know the difference between things that are expected when you start a medication and things that are not. This way, if you begin to experience effects that you know should not be happening, you are able to take care of the problem before it becomes worse. Also, it is important to know what to expect when you start a new medication so that you are not alarmed when side effects show up.
#4 — What kinds of things interact with this medication?
It is common practice for your pharmacist to check the other medications you are taking to make sure there are no interactions with your new medication. However, this can be a problem if you get prescriptions filled at different pharmacies because the pharmacist will not be able to see everything you are taking. Also, some medications have interactions with foods, and it is important for your health to know about these interactions.
#5 — What should I do if I miss a dose?
Everybody is human. Even if you take every precaution to make sure you don’t miss a dose, it will probably happen at least once, especially if you are just starting a new medication. Because of this, it is important to know what to do if you miss a dose so you can get back to your dosing routine safely and avoid worrying about what to do.
As I already mentioned, these are not the only questions to ask your pharmacist about a medication, but they will provide a good starting point for a conversation about your medication. By asking these questions and learning the answers to them, you will have good basic knowledge of your medication and should be able to take it safely and effectively.
Never be afraid to ask questions about your medications. Whether you are picking them up for the first time or you have taken them for years, the pharmacist is there to answer your questions and help you to understand your medications. If you can understand your medications, you are well prepared to be a key player in managing your health!