Five Questions to Ask When Prescribed a New Medication

Medications are a necessary lifesaving medical expense. To get the most for your money, there are five simple questions you can ask to make sure you have a full understanding of the new medication.

  1. WHY am I taking this? Understanding the purpose of the medication, in other words, the specific condition you have that the medication is supposed to help, goes a long way to helping you know your medication basics.
  2. HOW does this medication work? Having a general understanding of how the medication works can help you determine if the medication is working as it is intended or you are having side effects. Don’t settle for medical jargon. Have your prescriber explain it until you understand it. For example: if the medication is for high blood pressure, make sure you understand whether you might get dizzy when it starts working, making it better to take at bedtime.
  3. WHEN should I take this medication? Knowing the time of day to take your medication, with food or on an empty stomach can greatly enhance how certain medications work. Be sure you discuss this with your prescriber or pharmacist. For example, thyroid medications are best taken on an empty stomach.
  4. WHAT shouldn’t I do? We are all familiar with the little warning labels on the side of a prescription bottle. These stickers are only the start of what you shouldn’t do: drink alcohol, avoid certain foods. These warnings have a purpose and are important to understand how long you must avoid the potentially harmful interaction. Blood thinners like warfarin can be counteracted by eating an occasional salad, but if you eat salad everyday then be consistent and eat salad every day. There are important ways to manage restrictions without being draconian.
  5. WHAT do I do if I forget to take my medications? We are all human and we do forget to take our medications. It is important to know whether you should take the pill as soon as you remember, wait until your next dose and skip that first dose entirely, or double up on the dose (in certain circumstances). The subject of my next article will be ways to remember to take your medications.
  6. BONUS QUESTION: How well does this new medication work with my existing medications and supplements? Many medications interact with one another and the interactions are well known to your pharmacist. Be sure to ask this question of your pharmacist before starting the new medication.

Always ask these questions when you are prescribed a new medication and you will be an informed partner in your health care.


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