Ten Questions to Ask Your Pharmacist About Your Medications

Published: September 28, 2021
Rachel Crusius
By Rachel Crusius, Pharm.D. Candidate 2022

While it may feel overwhelming at times to understand your medications, pharmacists, as medication experts, are excellent resources of information and an important member of your health care team. Here are ten questions to ask your pharmacist about your medications.

1. What is this medication used for?
While this may seem like an obvious question, not only is it helpful for you to know what you are taking a medication for, it will help in the future when other members of your health care team ask for your medication history. Knowing what the medication is for also helps you determine if the medication is working. If you are surprised by your pharmacist’s answer, it may be helpful to check if there are other uses for the medication.

2. Are there other names or uses for this medication?
Every medication has a brand and generic name. For example, Tylenol is a brand name, and acetaminophen is the generic name for this popular pain reliever and fever reducer. Similarly, some medications have multiple uses, like some blood pressure medications may be used to manage migraines or anxiety.

3. How and when do I take my medication, and what should I do if I miss a dose?
You will want to know if there are special instructions on how and when to take the mediation correctly. This could include whether to take your medication with food or on an empty stomach or if it needs to be taken at a different time from your other medications. Ask your pharmacist what you should do if you miss a dose, so you have the information on hand in case this happens.

4. How should I store my medication?
All medications should be kept out of reach of children and pets. It is important to always store the medication in the original container with the pharmacy label. Some medications may require refrigeration.

5. Does this medication have any common side effects, and what should I do if they occur?
Almost every medication has side effects, and it is important to ask your pharmacist what symptoms to look out for. Your pharmacist should also explain what to do in case you experience any side effects. Your actions could range from doing nothing to going to an emergency room. However, it is still important to continue taking your medication unless told to stop by a member of your healthcare team, even if you are experiencing side effects.

6. Are there any precautions I can take to help reduce the chance of experiencing a side effect?
This is a great follow-up question to ask your pharmacist. Knowing if there is anything you can do to minimize the chances of a side effect could improve your experience with a medication.

7. Are there any interactions between this medication and my other medications—prescription, over-the-counter, or herbal products?
It is always good to double-check that your medication doesn’t interact with other medications you are taking. This is particularly important if you obtain medications from different doctors or pharmacies where they may not have records of everything you are taking.

8. Are there any foods or drinks that I should avoid while taking my medication?
Similar to how medications can interact with one another, foods and drinks can affect your medication. For example, grapefruit juice, leafy green vegetables, and alcohol can affect how well your medication works or increase the chance of side effects.

9. Are there any cheaper alternatives or copay assistance programs for this medication?
Medications can be expensive. Talk to your pharmacist about generic versions, copay assistance programs, or special offers through the manufacturer that may help save some money.

10. May I repeat back what you just told me to make sure I understand?
As a practicing pharmacist, I can tell you that this is an important step for patients. When you repeat back what you just learned, the pharmacist can clarify any information or details.

Summary
Be sure to tell your pharmacist if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding since there are medications that may not be safe for you or your baby. Lastly, if you are looking for more information about your medications, please visit the Drug Library here on SafeMedication.com.

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