You should be able to answer the following questions before taking any new medication. Although each medication 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 medication and what is it supposed to do?
You should know the names of all the medications—both prescription and nonprescription—you take so you can inform each doctor you see. It is also important to know what each medication looks like.
When and how do I take it?
You need to know how often to take your medication, if the medication 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 medication and whether refills are available. Skipping doses or stopping medication to save money or because you "feel better," can result in health problems requiring more expensive treatment in the future.
Does this medication 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 medications, food and/or activities?
Certain foods or alcohol may also interact with your medications. Some drugs 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 will inform you of the most common side effects. If you experience any unexplained effects, contact your doctor or pharmacist.
What if I forget to take my medications?
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 medication?
Not all medications 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 medications?
Proper storage ensures a medication's effectiveness. The bathroom medicine cabinet is not an ideal storage place. Heat and humidity can adversely affect your medication. Most medications require a cool and dry storage location, and some need refrigeration.
Does this medication replace anything else I was taking?
Make sure you understand if this medication is replacing another medication.
Most liquid medications come with a measuring device. Make sure you have one before you leave the pharmacy. If you don't have one, ask the pharmacist how to measure out the dose you need. Do not use tableware, such as a tablespoon, because each one is made differently.