You should be able to answer the following questions before taking any new medicine. Although each medicine comes with instructions, your pharmacist should be available to answer any or all of the following questions in more depth and in language that is easier to understand.
What is the name of the medicine and what is it supposed to do?
You should know the names of all the medicines—both prescription and nonprescription—you take so you can inform each doctor you see. It is also important to know what each medicine looks like.
When and how do I take it?
You need to know how often to take your medicine, if the medicine is best taken on an empty stomach or with food, and if you should take it at the same time each day.
For how long should I take it?
Your prescription order indicates the length of time you should take the medicine and whether refills are available. Skipping doses or stopping medicine to save money or because you "feel better," can result in health problems requiring more expensive treatment in the future.
Does this medicine contain anything that can cause an allergic reaction?
If you always use the same pharmacy, the pharmacist will be able to detect any potential problems.
Should I avoid alcohol, any other medicines, food and/or activities?
Certain foods or alcohol may also interact with your medicines. Some drugs can cause drowsiness and may affect activities such as driving.
Should I expect any side effects?
All medicines can cause side effects, but they are not necessarily serious. Your pharmacist will inform you of the most common side effects. If you experience any unexplained effects, contact your healthcare provider or pharmacist.
What if I forget to take my medicines?
Be sure you know the answer to this question when you receive the prescription. The decision to take a missed dose depends on the drug. Don't panic and don't take a double dose unless you are specifically directed to do so by your doctor.
Is there a generic version of the medicine?
Not all medicines have generic counterparts. If a generic version is available, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has judged it to be equivalent to the brand name product and can save you up to half the cost.
How should I store my medicines?
Proper storage ensures a medicine's effectiveness. The bathroom medicine cabinet is not an ideal storage place. Heat and humidity can adversely affect your medicine. Most medicines require a cool and dry storage location, and some need refrigeration.
Does this medicine replace anything else I was taking?
Make sure you understand if this medicine is replacing another medicine.