Some ten crucial questions to ask your pharmacist

Thursday, July 1st, 2021 00:00 | 4 mins read

By making enquiries, people can help prevent rare, but potentially deadly medication errors, and make sure they are using their medication in the safest and most effective way. So, if anything does not seem right, speak up. Ann Wairimu explores some queries you may want to get answers to the next time you present your prescription.

1.What is the medication supposed to do?

You should ask your pharmacist why he or she is prescribing the medication.

Always confirm the name of the pills and the reason you are taking them. Some medications, such as antibiotics, are used to cure an illness.

Others, such as pain medications, are used to control the symptoms. It is good to know what to expect from your medication, so that you have a realistic idea of what it can do for you.

For refills, take a look to see if the tablets look the same as those in the last prescription before accepting the medication.

A medication that looks different than it did last time might just be a new generic, but it also might be the wrong medication entirely. If you see something, say something.

2. What are the side effects of this medication?

All medicines can cause side effects, but they are not necessarily serious. However, some side effects are serious, and require immediate medical attention.

That’s why it’s important to ask your pharmacist what to expect from your prescription.

Even if there is a long list of potential side effects on the pharmacy prescription information, it’s better to ask your pharmacist about the most frequently reported adverse effects of a medication.

Before you decide to stop taking a medication because of side effects, ask your pharmacist if there are any ways to combat them.

3. When should I follow up with my doctor? 

If you are experiencing side effects that you are unsure about, consulting your pharmacist could be extremely beneficial.

Side effects may not always be the concern; if the medication affects your daily activities, you may want to discuss alternative options.

In addition, some medications may not make a noticeable difference until you have had three to four months of consistent treatment, ask for a time line to better understand when to follow up with your health care provider.

4. Is it safe to become pregnant or breast-feed while taking this medication?

Women should consider the possible side effects of medications when planning a pregnancy, during pregnancy, or when nursing a baby.

Most drugs cause no problems, but others can cause birth defects when the mother takes them early in pregnancy.

Although they are usually safe, most drugs pass through a mother’s system into breast milk.

Therefore, expectant mothers should ask their pharmacist or physician before using any prescription.

5. Does the medication contain anything that can cause an allergic reaction?

If you always use the same pharmacy, the pharmacist will become more familiar with your medical history and can help you avoid allergic reactions to the drug or to inactive ingredients in your medications.

Also, let the pharmacist know if other people in your family have had severe allergic reactions to certain medicines.

6. Is there a generic version of the prescribed drug? 

A pharmacist can advise you if there is a generic option that is less expensive than a brand-name drug.

The key difference between generic and brand-name drugs is cost. Generic medications have the same active ingredient as the brand name. Not all generics are alike, however.

Some of the ‘fillers’ [inactive ingredients] may be different, and patients may prefer one brand over the other based on those. In some cases, a generic substitute may not be available.

7. How long will I need to use the medication?

Some medications are used for the short term, others for a lifetime. Knowing how long you will need to stay on a medication can help you prepare yourself for a lifestyle change if necessary.

For some medications, such as antibiotics, the whole course of treatment must be completed, even if you feel better after a couple of days.

8. Should I avoid alcohol or any foods?

Some medicines are known to interact with alcohol or food, resulting in an increased or decreased effect of the drug.

In some instances, the interaction may be harmful. Before taking any new medicine, always ask your pharmacist if it will interact with alcohol or food.

9. Can I take non-prescription drugs, herbal medicines, or other drugs with this medicine?

Many non-prescription drugs can interact with prescription medication. At times, the interactions can produce unwanted and even serious side effects.

Although often thought of as “natural,” several herbal products contain ingredients that can also cause significant interactions with prescription medication.

Never begin taking a new medication — prescription, non-prescription, or herbal — without asking your pharmacist if it will interact with your other medicines.

It is important to tell your doctor about other drugs or herbals you are taking before he or she plans a new treatment for you.

10. What should I do if I miss a dose?

Knowing what to do if you miss a dose of prescribed medication before you leave the pharmacy can save a lot of aggravation and worry.

Different drugs and dosing schedules may require different catch-up strategies.

For some, you can skip a dose and just wait until the next. With others, for example, birth control pills, you may need to take the missed dose even if it means doubling up.