5 Questions You Should Be Asking Your Pharmacist
When you receive a prescription from your physician, you probably view that physician as a source of information about the medication. While your doctor can certainly provide you with answers to your questions, such as why they are prescribing the medication, your pharmacist can also answer questions you have about the prescription. In fact, pharmacists are experts on prescription medications, and they can answer questions that you may not have had time to ask during the course of a doctor’s appointment. Below are five questions you should be asking your pharmacist about your prescription, to ensure you get the most benefit, and the least risk, from your medications.
What side effects does this medication cause?
When your doctor prescribes a medication, they have determined that the benefits you derive from the medication will outweigh potential side effects. That being said, it’s still helpful to know what side effects you can expect to experience with a new medication. Be sure to ask about common, minor side effects, as well as severe side effects that may be cause for concern. In many cases, serious side effects are rare, but you need to know what symptoms are indicative of a serious problem that warrants medical attention.
Could this medication interact with anything else I am taking?
Before taking a new medication, you also need to be aware of potential interactions with other medications you are taking. Hopefully, your doctor has checked other medications you are prescribed to ensure that they will not interact with your new prescription, but if you are being treated by various providers for multiple health conditions, there is a chance they may miss one of the prescriptions on your list. It is always best to inform your pharmacist of all medications you are taking and ask if the new medication will cause problems with any of the other medications. Sometimes, certain drugs can cause worse side effects when taken together, and in other instances, one medication may reduce the effectiveness of another. Certain foods can even interact with prescription medications, so it can be helpful to ask your pharmacist about any possible food interactions.
What should I do if I accidentally miss a dose?
Even with the best of intentions, you might occasionally miss a dose of your medication. For some drugs, you may be able to get back on track by simply proceeding as usual with taking the medication the following day. In other instances, it may be best to take a double dose the next time you take the medication. Your pharmacist will be able to clarify the best option if you accidentally miss a dose, so that you can continue to get the intended benefits of the medication.
Are there any special directions for taking this medication?
Some prescription drugs are taken on an as-needed basis, whereas others may be taken following a specific schedule, or at specific times of day. It’s important to understand special directions for taking your medication so that you can get the greatest possible benefit from it. Ask your pharmacist exactly how you should take the medication if you are unsure. This can include asking whether you should take it in the morning or at night, if you should always take it at the same time of day, and whether you should take it with food/drink. Instructions are likely printed on your prescription bottle, but it is helpful to clarify verbally with your pharmacist.
What should I do if I need to stop taking this medication?
In some cases, you may need to stop taking a medication. For instance, if you become pregnant or experience serious side effects, you may determine that taking the medication is no longer in your best interests. Asking a pharmacist what you should do if you need to stop taking a medication is important. In some instances, you may need to taper off of the medication to avoid withdrawal symptoms or other side effects. If you have a serious health condition, your pharmacist may refer you to your doctor to ask questions about stopping your medication. In some instances, such as if you take insulin for diabetes, it may be dangerous to stop taking medication. A pharmacist will be able to inform you about the appropriateness of stopping a medication for a particular health condition.
The Bottom Line
You should never be afraid to ask your pharmacist about one of the medications you are taking. A pharmacist is a valuable member of your healthcare team, and part of their role is to ensure that you understand what medications you’re taking, what they do, how to take them, and what you can expect (ie: side effects) while taking the medication. A physician will hopefully provide you with information about your prescriptions, but even so, you may still have questions for your pharmacist. Do not hesitate to ask; it is important that you understand all of the important details about medications you’re taking.
At the end of the day, asking questions may be life-saving. For example, certain medications can interact with grapefruit, and in some cases, the interaction effect can be severe. Interactions between grapefruit and prescription medications can result in kidney damage, irregular heart rhythm, and a serious condition called rhabdomyolysis, which causes profound muscle damage. If you do not ask questions about medication interactions, you may miss out on important, and potentially life-saving, information. Usually, warning labels are printed on medications, but it can be easy to miss them. Ultimately, you won’t regret asking questih hi ons of your pharmacist.