8 Questions to Ask When New Medication is Prescribed

Are you well informed when new medication is prescribed?  If you aren’t asking these 8 questions, you probably aren’t.  Medication is complicated.  The name, the ingredients, the directions, the desired effects, the side effects, the recommended dosage, the color, the shape…the list goes on.  A better-informed patient creates better results so understand the answers to these questions.

1. What is the reason for the medication?

Know why you are taking the medication.  Appointments with a health care practitioner can be stressful and confusing.  Know what your diagnosis is.  Only one practitioner should be treating you for a specific diagnosis.  If you have more than one practitioner prescribing medication for the same diagnosis, it’s imperative that they are communicating.  

2. What are the directions?

If the medication is to be taken three times a day, ask at what time.  Some medication works best if spaced out evenly so three times a day may mean take it at 7 am, 3 pm and 11 pm.  The pharmacy will most likely write “take three times a day” on the pharmacy label, so you need to clarify the times with the prescribing practitioner.  If the medication is short term, be sure you know when to stop taking it.

3. What is the response time?

Some medication works quickly, within an hour, while others may take weeks to reach the desired effect.  It’s important to know when you should see improvement in your symptoms so you can contact the practitioner if the desired effects aren’t seen in the correct amount of time.

4. What are possible negative effects?

Will this medication cause side effects?  Again, it’s important that you know what to expect.  Some medication may produce mild side effects which are manageable.  You want to know what should be reported to the practitioner.  Consider if the benefits outweigh the risks.  

5. Are there potential drug interactions to watch for?

Ask if the new medication will interfere with other medication or supplements that you are already taking.  The practitioner should review your current medication list.  Some medication may cause another’s effects to be reduced or it may enhance another. 

6. Are there any special lab studies or testing needed?

Some medication requires routine lab studies to make sure that the dose is therapeutic.  Ask how often the lab studies are needed.  Medication could have a potential side effect of heart rhythm abnormalities so cardiac monitoring may be needed.  Always know what follow up is needed and remind your practitioner when the testing is needed.

7. Are there any observations that need to be made?

If you were prescribed new medication for high blood pressure, ask if you should be monitoring your blood pressure at home.  If yes, how often and what parameters are considered safe.  This is an objective way to determine if the medication is effective.

8. Is the dose prescribed the least effective dose?

Less is more when it comes to prescribed medication.  Starting at the least effective dose helps achieve the desired results without possible negative effects.  For example, if someone needs Benadryl for allergies and 25 mg. treats the symptoms, you wouldn’t want to take 50 mg. and be so sleepy that you can’t function properly.

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