Physicians are often seen as the go-to resource for information about medications. But pharmacists are also extremely qualified to provide guidance. In fact, they might be the best professionals to answer more specific, personalized questions about the prescriptions you’re taking.
Knowing your resources is only the first step, however. You might not know which questions to ask once you have the opportunity to speak with a pharmacist. Or you may assume, understandably, that all the answers are on the medication label.
Yet medication labels can be difficult to read and understand, and they cannot address everyone’s unique circumstances.
Pharmacists are trained on all sorts of drug interactions, side effects, adverse reactions, and more. Asking the right questions ahead of time can save you a lot of trouble down the line.
We’ve partnered with CVS Pharmacy to provide you 8 useful questions to ask your pharmacist:
Some medications, like antibiotics, are meant to treat bacterial infections. Others, like antihistamines, are used to control symptoms of allergies, such as runny nose and watery eyes.
It’s important to know how a drug interacts with your body to manage your expectations about its efficacy or help explain any bodily changes you might experience.
Some medications need to be taken on an empty stomach, others with food. Some need to be taken at a specific time of day or at the same time every day.
You might also want to ask if it’s safe to stop taking the medication once you feel better. It’s important to take your medication correctly for it to be effective.
In addition to standard medication labels and inserts, the drug’s manufacturer or your pharmacy may produce additional patient support materials. This information may be written in language that is easier to understand than the drug’s label.
If you have additional questions once you return home, never hesitate to contact your pharmacist. CVS pharmacists are readily available to answer questions, both in-person and online.
While it’s generally helpful to know different names of the same treatment, this question is particularly useful if you’re having trouble with your insurance. Some health insurance covers the cost of only a generic version of medication if it’s available.
Many drugs have two names: a brand name and generic. Unless your doctor puts “dispense as written” on your prescription, you may be able to get a generic version that is just as effective but less expensive.
Figuring all this out yourself can feel overwhelming, so don’t hesitate to ask your pharmacist about potential savings options. They may be able to assist you in finding a cheaper medication — like an over-the-counter (OTC) product — or contacting your doctor directly to ask about lower cost alternatives.
Additionally, pharmacists can let you know about assistance programs or discount offerings that help with the cost of pricey prescriptions. They also have the expertise to answer basic questions you may have about your insurance plan.
Not all possible interactions may be printed boldly on the label.
Never take a new medication without telling your doctor and pharmacist about all other prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, herbal drugs, or supplements you’re taking. Even natural products can interact negatively with prescription medications.
You should also disclose any known allergies to medications.
It will be helpful to ask whether you should avoid any activities or non-prescription substances as well. For example, you may not be able to drive or operate heavy machinery while you’re taking a certain medication. You might need to avoid having sex, drinking, or smoking during treatment.
Whether you should make up for a missed dose depends on the medication. Ask your pharmacist what you should do ahead of time so that you’ll be prepared if you do miss a dose or take it incorrectly.
For example, the pharmacist may tell you to take two doses the next day at the same time as usual. Or they might tell you it’s better to take the next dose as soon as possible.
Drugs may lose their effectiveness if they’re not stored properly.
Light, heat, and moisture can be damaging, for example. Your pharmacist may tell you to store your medications in a cool, dry place, like the medicine cabinet or refrigerator.
Your medication may not be useful after you leave it for a certain period of time, regardless of where you’ve stored it. If you have additional questions once you return home, you can still contact your pharmacist.
All medications may have some side effects, but not all side effects are serious. It’s important to be able to distinguish between what’s expected and what may indicate a concern.
Even if there’s a long list of possible adverse reactions on a drug’s labeling, it’s important to ask your pharmacist which are most common and what to do if you experience side effects.