In our last Medication Spotlight, we discussed the idea of becoming more proactive in the medication decision process. As patients, there is a need to engage our health professionals with thought provoking questions and be comfortable with their responses before leaving the office visit.

Below is a core list of questions to ask about each new prescription while in the provider office, or at your pharmacy.

  1. What’s the name of the medicine, and what is it for? What is the brand and generic name? Is a generic version of this medicine available?
  2. How and when do I take it, and for how long? Are there specific times of the day to take the medication? Is the medication for a short term condition (i.e. an antibiotic for only a few days), or a chronic condition?
  3. What primary side effects should I expect, and what should I do about them? How can I prevent them?
  4. Should I take this medicine on an empty stomach or with food?
  5. Should I avoid any activities, foods, drinks, alcohol or other medicines while taking this prescription? Will the medicine affect my sleep?
  6. If it’s a once-a-day dose, is it best to take it in the morning or at night?
  7. Will this medicine work safely with my other medications, including other prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins and other supplements? NB: Always tell your provider about all the type of medications you take outside of those they prescribe for you.
  8.  When should I expect the medicine to start working, and how will I know if it is working?
  9. How should I store it?
  10. Is there any additional information I should know about this medicine?

Receiving answers to these core questions will ensure you are maximizing your medication benefits and minimizing the risks.

Between office visits, write down any other questions that occur to you, and bring them to your next appointment. Bring a notepad to record the answers to avoid relying on your memory.

In addition to the above core items, here are some other areas you may want information on to increase your comfort level and optimize medication therapy.

  1. Why did you choose this particular medicine?
  2. Will this medication affect other medical conditions that affect me (for example, glaucoma, emphysema)?
  3. Are any monitoring tests required with this medication (for example, to check liver or kidney functions)?
  4. Will I need a refill? Do we need to schedule a follow-up visit?
  5. Are there certain medications I should avoid if I’m pregnant, planning to become pregnant or breastfeeding?
  6. How and under what conditions should I stop taking a medicine? Can I stop taking the medicine if I start to feel better?
  7. What if I miss a dose?
  8. Do you have the ability to e-prescribe (sending prescriptions by computer directly to the pharmacy)?

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