Top 9 Questions to Ask Your Pharmacist
Pharmacists are much more than just the people who distribute drugs to patients - they also offer a wide array of patient services that are dedicated to providing accurate knowledge to patients. When it comes to asking your pharmacist questions, you’ll need to have a stable game plan in place so you can equip yourself with the confidence and knowledge you need to take your medications properly.
Forming a strong network of healthcare professionals that are knowledgeable, professional, and supportive of your healthcare goals is key to taking care of yourself as someone who regularly takes prescription drugs, or as someone who is navigating the pharmacist/patient relationship for the first time.
Today’s market dictates that you’ll likely be able to ask your pharmacist questions in person or online, so it’s important to detail your inquiries perfectly so you’re getting the correct information. A reputable and professional pharmacist will have no problem answering any of your questions. In this post, we’re detailing some of the most important questions to ask a pharmacist.
What’s the Medication Called?
Knowing how to read and interpret your prescription medication labels is key to understanding what you’re taking, and therefore, how it will ultimately benefit you. Each medication has two names: a brand name, and a generic (common) name. For example, Tylenol is the brand name under which a company sells and markets the drug, while acetaminophen is the generic/common name that describes the active ingredient.
Labels will state both drug names, your name, the intended dose of the medication you’re to take, and the number of times you're supposed to take your dose each day. Ask your pharmacist questions about reading and understanding the medication label so you know what you’re taking and understand that basics of your prescription.
What Does the Medication Do?
There are typically two different types of prescription medications:
- Some medication cure illness/infection, like antibiotics.
- Some medications are used to control symptoms, including pain killers.
Knowing what your medication is supposed to do will give you a better understanding of what it’s supposed to do for you as you take it.
How Should I Take my Medication?
Asking your pharmacist questions about the specifics of taking your medication is likely to be the first important inquiry most prescription-fillers will have. Be prepared to ask specific questions about:
- When should you take your meds?
- Most medications are designed to be taken at specific times of the day, and need to be taken consistently. Others are more relaxed.
- Should they be taken with/without food?
- If your medication is taken orally, can it be crushed or does it have to be taken in pill form?
- Should you refrain from operating any heavy machinery or driving while taking this medication?
- Should you carry on your lifestyle as if nothing has changed?
How Long Should I Take My Medication?
Asking your pharmacist questions about the duration you need to take your medication is important because some medications take some time to kick in, and others act immediately. Likewise, some prescriptions are short term in scope, while others need to be taken for a lifetime.
Come prepared with questions to ask your pharmacist about the duration of time you need to stay on your medication, and how long is required to make a difference in your condition; for example, antibiotics typically require the entire course of treatment be completed to have a lasting effect. Even if you begin to feel better within a couple of days, or a week - it’s crucially important to know about the release and use of each medication you’re taking to better understand how it can help you adapt your use.
What are the Potential Side Effects on my Medication?
Some medication side effects are very serious, and can require immediate medical attention. Other medications may feature mild side effects that don’t require rushing to the hospital. Ensuring you’re aware of all the potential side effects is critical to confidently and safely taking your medications.
Your doctor likely won’t go over all of the potential side effects of the medications they prescribe to you, and sometimes the print literature or information available online can be overwhelming and confusing to first-time takers.
Asking your pharmacist questions about potential side effects not only educates you about the medications you are about to begin taking, but it will also help to put a personal touch on the entire process, eliminating the dry instruction-based tips and lists of side effects often included in medication brochures or printed info. You can also make a point to ask your pharmacist questions on how to deal with mild side effects, rather than stopping to take the medication all together.
Will This Medication React with my Other Prescriptions?
Come prepared with a list of any other medications you’re currently taking, and ask your pharmacist questions about any potential interference or negative reactions some medications may have with others.
How Will I know if the Medication is Working?
It’s important to ask your pharmacist to explain the approximate timeline from which your meds will begin to take effect, and how you can expect to feel and react when they do. This way, you’ll be prepared to monitor the drug’s activity and its impact on your specific situation - further, you’ll also be able to take positive action if you do not notice the medication begin to work.
What If I Miss a Dose?
We’re all human, and sometimes life and a busy schedule can get in the way of consistently taking your medications on time, contributing to a missed dose. Ask your pharmacist questions about potential repercussions of missing a dose of your prescription medication, and what it could mean for your recovery or treatment of a disease or condition.
As we’ve mentioned in this post already, some medications are required to be taken at very specific times in order to release active medicinal ingredients into your system at an optimal point - others are less strict - so knowing what your options are should you miss a dose is proactive information to be make yourself aware of.
How Should I Store My Medication?
Ask your pharmacist about how to store your drugs in the most appropriate way to prolong their shelf life, and maintain their effectiveness. As a general rule, most prescription medications should be stored in a dark, dry area at room temperature. There are other medications that will require constant refrigeration.
Knowing how to accurately store your medications will hugely impact other aspects of its effectiveness and ability to help you - when stored properly, medications will work more consistently with what you’re expecting them to do, helping your doctor and pharmacist to accurately judge your progress. Improperly storing a medication could lead your healthcare team to unnecessarily prescribe different meds should they expire or underperform.
Asking your pharmacist questions is part and parcel to being a responsible and engaged prescription medication patient. Knowing full well all of the possible side effects, when, how, and why you’re taking the meds you’re taking is elemental to giving yourself the tools to take care of your body and your overall well being in a way that makes you happy, comfortable, and confident with your situation.