With so many miracle drugs on the market these days, it’s rare to leave your doctor’s office without at least one prescription in hand. To safely use your medications to their full benefit, there are questions every patient should ask the pharmacist. Whereas your doctor may be limited to the time he can spend with you to thoroughly explain your medications, your pharmacist is trained to counsel you about the specifics of the prescribed drug during the course of your treatment.
All medications are dispensed with written information about the drug, and most of the printed information is easily understood. Occasionally, however, the medication your doctor has prescribed can cause certain conditions or side effects. To better understand your medication, you should ask for a consultation at the pharmacy, especially if you’ve been given multiple prescriptions for your medical condition.
What is it for?
The most obvious questions are what is the medication and why was it prescribed. Along with the uses of the medication, your pharmacist will be able to tell you about the conditions for which it is prescribed and whether the course of treatment will be temporary or long-term.
How to take?
Another important point to go over with the pharmacist is how to use the medication. Your doctor has written out his directions for use, but it’s the pharmacist’s job to interpret it and instruct you in how much to take and when to take it. Most medications should be taken at regular intervals, and some at specific times of the day or night.
What are interactions?
Some medications react adversely with certain foods, or can cause dangerous interactions with other medications, both over-the-counter products and other prescriptions. Some combinations can worsen your condition, others can cause serious medical emergencies.
Your first step to safely using prescribed medicines should always be to tell your doctor what others you take and if you have any allergies. It is equally important to your treatment for your doctor to know of any other conditions you have even if you do not take medications for them. Your pharmacist should also be made aware of this information on your pharmacy profile.
What are side effects?
Almost every pharmaceutical drug has side effects. Some are minor, but others can be debilitating. Not all patients will be subject to every medication side effect, but every adverse effect that occurred during testing will be noted on the printed information the pharmacist gives you with your prescription. Routine side effects usually diminish after a day or so of treatment.
The most common side effects of any new medication are drowsiness, dizziness, rash, or itching. The pharmacist can advise what to look for and whether to stop taking the medication immediately and call the doctor to report more serious side effects that persist or worsen, such as slowed breathing, bruising or bleeding, or unusual fatigue.
What is proper storage?
Certain medications need special handling or storage. Most prescription pills are dispensed in dark bottles or vials because continuous exposure to light will cause them to lose effectiveness. Medicines stored in bathrooms, where it is often damp or humid, can lose their potency. Ask the pharmacist about the best method of storing your particular medication.
Prescription medications can keep disease and illness under control only if we use them properly and know how to avoid medication mistakes. The role of the pharmacist is to help us do just that.