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Questions All Patients Should Ask Their Pharmacist About Their Medications

What is the name of the medication, and what is it supposed to do?

You should know the names of your medications, both prescription and nonprescription. Because you may see more than one doctor, you should always inform each doctor of all the medications you are taking. This will help ensure that the medication you take - prescription or nonprescription - is appropriate for your condition.

When and how do I take it?

Taking your medication correctly is very important to ensure that it gives you the help you expect. Examples of questions you might ask are: Should I take this medication on an empty stomach or with food? How often should I take it? Do I take it at the same time every day?

How long should I take it?

Serious problems may result from not taking all your medication or by continuing medications too long. Your doctor should indicate the length of time with your prescription order. Ask your pharmacist about nonprescription medicines.

Does this medication contain anything that can cause an allergic reaction?

If you always use the same pharmacy, the pharmacist will keep your medication history and can help you avoid allergic reactions to the drug or to inactive ingredients in your medications.

Pharmacists are your best sources for information on how to get the most from your medicines. Ask your pharmacist questions-- he or she is trained to serve as your medcation advisor.

Should I avoid alcohol, any other medications, foods, and/or activities?

Your prescription and nonprescription medications may interact with other drugs causing a harmful effect. Certain foods or alcohol may also interact with drug products. Never begin taking a new medication, prescription or nonprescription, without asking your pharmacist if it will interact with alcohol, foods or other medicines. Some drug products can cause drowsiness and may affect activities such as driving.

Should I expect any side effects?

All medications can cause side effects, but they are not necessarily serious. Your pharmacist and health care provider can help you anticipate and understand these side effects and help you deal with them. If you experience unexplained side effects, contact your health care provider or pharmacist.

Is there a generic version of the medication my doctor has prescribed?

Your pharmacist can tell you if there is an approved generic version of your medication. Not all prescription medicines have generic counterparts. Generic medicines are usually less expensive than their brandname counterparts.

What if I forget to take my medication?

Try to follow the directions as closely as possible. However, you occasionally may make mistakes or forget to take your medications. The decision to take a missed dose depends on the drug. Don't panic and take a double dose. Ask your pharmacist his or her advice when you have the prescription order dispensed. You should know the answer to this question before it happens.

Is it safe to become pregnant or to breastfeed while taking this medication?

Women should consider the possible effects of medications on an unborn child or a nursing baby. Some drugs cause no problems, but others can cause birth defects when the mother takes them early in pregnancy. Also, some drugs pass through a mother's system into breast milk. Therefore, expectant and nursing mothers should ask their pharmacist or doctor before using any prescription or nonprescription medications.

How should I store my medications?

Medications may lose their effectiveness if stored incorrectly. The "medicine cabinet" in the bathroom is not a good place for storage because of the moisture and heat. Ask your pharmacist about theproper storage of all prescription and nonprescription medications.

Ask Your Pharmacist

Your pharmacist will be able to answer these medication questions as well as any others you may have. Pharmacists are trained as medication experts so they can help you get better faster and keep you out of the hospital.

Choose your pharmacist as carefully as you choose your doctor because he or she is an important part of your health care team. It is not uncommon to see more than one doctor; and for this reason, it is very important to use just one pharmacy so your medication records will be located in one place. Your pharmacist can help you keep track of what you are taking-- prescription and nonprescription-- and make sure that your medications will not interact harmfully with each other.

Your pharmacist also can serve as your medication advisor when treating yourself and your family with nonprescription ("over-the-counter") medications. Even though these medicines do not require a doctor's written prescription, they are still very powerful and may affect other medications.

Now that you are familiar with what you should know about your medications, ask your pharmacist for the answers and remember to "Be Informed... Stay Healthy-- Talk With Your Pharmacist."

Pharmacists can educate you
about your medications--
prescription and nonprescription.
And the more you know,
the better you'll feel.

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