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Starting a new medication: Questions to ask

Jennifer Newton Reents is a Registered Nurse and has a bachelor's degree in journalism. She is the former associate editor various print magazines, including Pregnancy Magazine, and continues to contribute to various national magazines t...

Medication safety

Making an informed decision to start a new medication is crucial to your health. It's important to ask your pharmacist and healthcare provider these questions to ensure you know your medications' side effects, risks, benefits and outcomes expected from treatment.

Doctor writing prescription

Here are some questions that our experts think you should ask before starting any new medication:

What is this medication for and what results should I expect?

Before taking any medication, you should know why it's being prescribed and what it will treat. "That way if it doesn't do what it is supposed to do, you can immediately alert your pharmacist and physician. Certain medications also are associated with side effects that are common and manageable, and others have side effects require immediate attention," says Pharmacist Lisa Meny, PharmD, a director of a program that works to improve patient health through medication therapy management in Lansing, Michigan. "Some medications also take time to work, which can mean that several weeks may pass by before you will see a difference. Discuss these issues with your pharmacist before taking your medication."

What are the side effects?

This is crucial to understand. That way, you know what to expect and are able to recognize the side effect as normal or abnormal Your healthcare provider can tell you what to expect, but so can your pharmacist. Make sure there is a written leaflet with your medication provided by the pharmacy so you have something which to refer.

How do I take this medication?

When the healthcare provider writes your prescription, ask them how it is supposed to be taken.

 

Your pharmacist can also provide some insight and can help to educate you on how to take your medication for the best results, such as if it is best to take it with food or if there are certain foods to avoid. "These are questions that … can make a dramatic difference in the effectiveness of your medication," Meny says. Don't forget to ask if alcohol or other medications interfere.

 

Does my insurance cover this prescription?

Typically your healthcare provider won't know the answer to this question, but the pharmacy can check that information for you. "Your pharmacist will help you make sure your medications are covered, and work closely with your physician to treat your condition and keep your costs down," Meny says. She suggests bringing your insurance card with you to each pharmacy visit. "Let your pharmacist know if you are having trouble affording your medications, and they can help you with assistance plans and considering any potential avenues for cost savings," Meny says.

 

You might also ask if there is a generic form of the prescription that might save you money, says John O'Brien, PharmD, assistant professor of clinical and administrative sciences at the College of Notre Dame School of Pharmacy in Maryland.

 

Some other questions to consider:

 

  • What do I do if I miss a dose?
  • Now that I am taking this medication, are there other medications that I do not need?
  • Are there any regular tests required with taking this medication, such as regular blood draws?


**Please ensure to check with your healthcare providor before taking any medications or supplements or making changes to your diet. This article is for informational purposes only and should in no way replace advice from your healthcare provider.

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