Pill talk: You need answers

Side effects, prescription versus generic, refills; these may seem basic, but it's crucial to know the details.

Every time your doctor prescribes a new prescription drug there are a few questions to get into the habit of asking. You’d be amazed what happens when we leave the doctor’s office, drive home and then find ourselves with zero memory of the drug conversation. Below are just a few important questions to ask:

  • First and foremost we need to ask, “Why?” Sounds like a no-brainer, but I’ve done it myself, had no idea what my prescribed medication was exactly treating. Asking “why” can also lead into your physician telling you what your options are if you don’t take the prescription.
  • How do I take this medication? We don’t know what we don’t know. You may be getting better about reading the pill bottles, looking for expiration dates and checking if a medicine needs to be taken on a full or empty stomach. But, does it matter if it’s taken morning or night? Are there risks in taking certain medications and then lying down? Go over frequency with your physician. Ask what to do if you miss a dose? Hearing it from them and then re-asking the pharmacist helps instill it into our minds.
  • How long do I take this medication? You know the feeling; we start to feel better, so we lapse on finishing off prescriptions before the end date. Antibiotics fall into this category frequently. Research shows it is vital to finish your medication as prescribed. Your physician and pharmacist can both tell you about the importance of taking your prescriptions as prescribed. Mayo Clinic is clear on the problems associated with not taking medications as prescribed.
  • What are the side effects? Most all prescription medications will have some side effects; from dry mouth to more serious and noticeable side effects. It’s best to know what to expect.
  • Is this pill the real deal or a generic? Let’s face it; drugs have very long, complicated names to those of us without clinical backgrounds. For most of us, just by hearing the name of the drug we will not know if it’s generic or not. For clarity, its best to ask. Generic verses name brand differs in price and sometimes in tolerance.
  • Refills? Some medications are standing medications – you take them repeatedly for long-term management. Others, your physician may prescribe for a short duration. It’s best to get in the habit of asking about refills while you’re in the doctor’s office. By asking, “do I need to see you when I’m done taking this medication?” will allow the physician to give you a directive on follow-up.

Discussing your prescription in detail with your physician and pharmacist allows for clearer understanding of your personal health. Michigan State University Extension says to be sure to not skip this important step in visiting your physician.

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