Six Important Questions to Ask Your Pharmacist

Pharmacist explaining medication regimen to patient
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What if, after your visit to the pharmacy, you walked out knowing everything you needed to know about your medication? This might be the case for your routine prescriptions, but sometimes a new one comes along that you’re not so sure about. In these situations, it’s important to talk to your pharmacist.

A lot of times, patients leave the pharmacy without asking questions about their medications. This may be because:

  1. They don’t want to annoy their pharmacist with questions
  2. They feel embarrassed about the questions they want to ask
  3. They’re totally lost and not sure where to begin

By not asking your pharmacist questions about your medications when you’re confused, you’re doing a disservice to yourself. Pharmacists are some of the most accessible healthcare professionals out there. They’re available to you to chat through medication safety, dosing, management, and much more. Why go home confused when you can get an answer on the spot?

To help you get started with this process, here are six questions about your medications to consider asking:

#1 – Is there a generic version of my prescribed drug?

If the cost of your medications is a concern for you, asking if there’s a generic version of your prescribed medication could save you a good chunk of change.

You might be wondering what the difference between a generic and brand-name drug is. According to drugs.com, generic drugs contain the same active ingredient as the brand-name drug and produce the same restorative effect [i], but they are significantly cheaper than branded drugs. In fact, the Government Accountability Office states that generic drugs usually cost 75% less. [ii]

Asking your pharmacist if there’s a generic version of your medication can help save your healthcare dollars. For more information on generic drugs, check out this article by the FDA. [iii]

#2 – What are the common side effects of my prescribed drug?

Many drugs can have a long list of potential side effects.

Rather than asking your pharmacist to list out all the possible side effects of your medication, try asking them which are most common, which are cause for concern, and how best to manage them.

Are there particular instructions you should follow to avoid certain side effects (i.e. don’t lay down right after taking a certain drug, take this medication with food, etc.)? Is there an alternative medication you can try if the side effects from one are too overwhelming?

Asking these questions increases your education on your medication, helping better prepare you to manage your regimen and feel your best.

#3 – How should I take my medication?

Typically, patients want to maximize the effectiveness of their medications and avoid any sort of complications. In order to do so, it’s essential to ask your pharmacist questions about how you should take your medication.

Some good questions to ask are:

  • Should I take my medication with or without food?
  • Is it better to take it in the morning or at night?
  • If I’m currently taking other medications, is it okay to add this one to the mix?
  • Is there anything I should avoid when taking this medication?
  • How long should I use my medication?
  • How long does it take for my medication to work?
#4 – What should I do if I miss a dose?

Even the most Type A person has probably missed a dose or two of their medication before. Because it’s so common, it’s critical to ask your pharmacist what you should do in that scenario. Missing a dose or two may not seem like the end of the world, but it can produce some complications, such as the medication not being as effective.

Although there are various reasons for someone missing a dose, a survey by Statista shows that 52.1% of respondents missed a dose because they simply forgot. [iv] Here at Groove Health, we’ve developed a medication management mobile app that addresses the problem of forgetfulness. Not only are patients’ medication lists synced to their smartphones, but they also receive automated reminder notifications.

Learn more about our mobile app here!

#5 – Where should I store my medication, and how can I safely dispose of it?

You might be thinking: Why does it matter where I store my medication? Or Can’t I just throw it in the trash afterwards?

However, this topic is more critical than you might think. According to The New York City District Council of Carpenters Benefit Funds, around 70% of adolescents 12 and above who’ve reported using pain medication have acquired them from the medicine cabinets of their family or friends. [v] You want to address this question with your pharmacist so that your medication doesn’t fall into the wrong hands (i.e. those who misuse the drug).

In addition, the temperature of where certain medications are stored matters. A medication’s stability can be affected if not stored at the proper temperature, which in most cases is in a cool and dry place at room temperature, or according to Baystate Health, 59 to 77°F. [vi]

Here are a few ways to protect your medication:

  • Check your medication information before taking it
  • Don’t leave your medication in the car
  • Ask for room temperature-controlled packages when teleordering medications
  • Ask your pharmacist what to do if your medication has been exposed to extreme heat

For more medication storage tips and tricks when you’re on the go, check out our blog post, Tips for Traveling with Your Medications.

#6 – When should I follow up?

A follow-up with your doctor or pharmacist should be habitual. If you’re taking your medication and questions come up, check in. If things are going fine, let them know. Updating your pharmacist allows them to be informed of your current medication and health status.

The follow-up is simply an evaluation or check-in that allows them to take the appropriate next steps regarding your health, whether it’s continuing your current dosage, increasing or decreasing it, or stopping it altogether.

Benefits of Asking Questions

If you’re still hesitant or intimidated to talk with your pharmacist, here’s a list of some advantages of patients asking questions about their medications:

  • If the question is common enough, the pharmacist might share the response with every patient taking that same medication, eliminating the need for others to step up and ask; this can be of benefit to those who hadn’t thought of this question before
  • The pharmacist will better understand your health progress and can properly guide you to the next steps, whether it’s a refill or a dosage adjustment
  • You can leave the pharmacy with clarity and confidence
  • The pharmacist can learn whether they need to adjust their presentation of the medication (whether it’s adding or taking out information)

Remember: pharmacists are important members of the healthcare team.

They are a great resource to ask practical medical care questions. Not only are they accessible, but they truly want people to help people get well.

Interested in more healthcare tips and tricks? Be sure to follow Groove Health on Facebook and Twitter!

Cover photo by Unsplash

[i] “Generic Drug FAQs: What Is a Generic Drug?” Drugs.com, www.drugs.com/article/generic_drugs.html#:~:text=In%20the%20United%20States%2C%20trademark%20laws%20do%20not,the%20effectiveness%20of%20the%20drug%20remains%20the%20same.  

[ii] Dicken, John E. “Drug Pricing: Research on Savings from Generic Drug Use .” GAO, www.gao.gov/assets/gao-12-371r.pdf.

[iii] Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “Generic Drugs.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, www.fda.gov/drugs/buying-using-medicine-safely/generic-drugs.

[iv] Mikulic, Matej. “Reasons for Missing a Dose of Prescribed Medication by Age U.S. 2017.” Statista, 11 Oct. 2018, www.statista.com/statistics/913707/reasons-for-missing-a-dose-of-prescribed-medication-us-by-age/.

[v] “The Importance of Properly Disposing of Prescription Medications.” Benefit Funds, 10 Nov. 2017, nyccbf.org/the-importance-of-properly-disposing-of-prescription-medications/.

[vi] “How to Safely Store Medicine in the Heat.” Baystate Health | Springfield, MA, 10 June 2021, www.baystatehealth.org/news/2014/07/heat-impact-on-meds.

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