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10 questions to ask your pharmacist

When you take medication, you need to think about more than just swallowing a pill. Your pharmacist is trained to teach you how to take your medications properly to ensure the drugs do their job. Each time you have a prescription filled, ask your pharmacist these questions:

[1] What’s the medication’s name?

Most medications go by two names, the brand name given by the company that markets the drug and a common, or “generic,” name. Although your healthcare provider might have prescribed your medication by its brand name, your insurance plan may require you try the generic version first.

[2] What’s the medication supposed to do?

Know just which conditions or symptoms your medication is expected to improve so you can tell whether it’s working. For example, antibiotics clear up infections; antihistamines ease allergy symptoms.

[3] When and how should I take the medication?

Some medications should be taken only with food, others on an empty stomach. Some are supposed to be taken at night. Learn the best way to take your medicine to minimize side effects and maximize the benefits.

[4] For how long should I take the medication?

Serious complications can arise if you don’t take your medication long enough or if you take it for too long. You should usually take antibiotics, for example, until they’re gone, even though you may feel better after a few days. On the other hand, a sleeping aid may be prescribed to take only when needed. Some drugs, such as those to control high blood pressure or high cholesterol, may be prescribed in varying doses throughout your life.

[5] What if I miss a dose?

If you forget to take your medication as scheduled, don’t assume you should take a double dose unless your physician advises you to. Ask your pharmacist in advance what to do.

[6] What are the side effects?

Although everyone’s different, all drugs cause side effects. Learn which side effects are common and which ones may be warning signs of complications that require a call to your doctor.

[7] What foods, drinks or activities should I avoid?

Certain foods and beverages and even exercise can impair a medication’s ability to work properly. When taking some drugs, you may need to avoid alcohol, dairy foods or driving.

[8] Will this medication react with anything else I take?

Tell your pharmacist about medications you take, including over-the-counter drugs like aspirin, antacids, vitamins and mineral supplements.

[9] How should I store it?

Some medications need to be kept in the refrigerator, out of sunlight or away from a bathroom’s humidity to retain potency.

[10] Can I get refills?

Your pharmacist will label the bottle to show how many refills are available for your prescription. Know how many refills you have left when you see your provider again.