Taking medications can be confusing. To ensure that you understand your prescriptions and get the greatest benefit possible from your drug therapy, we have prepared a series of checklists to help you prepare for your next pharmacy visit.
When you bring in a new prescription to the pharmacy, the pharmacist may ask you some questions about your medical history to ensure that you are getting the most from your medication. These questions will also help the pharmacist double-check if there are potential problems with your new prescription before you take it. When you take your new prescription in to be filled, be ready to tell your pharmacist about:
- Allergies or intolerances to medications you have taken in the past and the reaction you experienced.
- Which medical condition your prescription is intended to treat. Some medications can be used for more than one condition.
- Other medical conditions you may have, as they may be affected by the new prescription.
- Other medications you are taking, as they may interact with the new prescription. Be sure to mention medications that are not only prescribed by a physician, nurse practitioner, or dentist but also purchased without a prescription, such as over-the-counter drugs, herbals, and vitamins.
- Any lifestyle factors, such as consumption of caffeine, food intake, and nicotine and alcohol use, that may affect your medical conditions and the way medications work.
Before you leave the pharmacy with a brand new prescription, make sure you know the answers to these important questions:
- What medical condition is the new medication treating?
- When can you expect to see the benefits of the medication?
- What are the most common side effects of the medication and how can you manage them?
- Can you stop the medication suddenly if you are not tolerating it well?
- How much of the medication are you going to take with each dose?
- How many times should you take the medication every day, what are the best times of day to take the medication, and how many hours apart should each dose be spaced?
- How much time should you leave before or after your meals to take the medication?
- What should you do if you forget to take a dose?
- Are there any foods, beverages, or other medications you should avoid while taking this medication?
- What is the proper way to store your medication?
- How long should you be taking the medication?
- When is your next follow-up visit with your physician to see if the medication is working?
It is important to inform your pharmacist if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, since some drugs may not be safe to take. As the drug expert on your healthcare team, your pharmacist will be able to determine which of your medications are deemed safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and will work with your physician to weigh the risks and benefits of medication therapy. When you inform your pharmacist that you are pregnant or breastfeeding, do your best to provide answers to the following questions:
- What trimester are you in? Some drugs are not safe to take in certain trimesters.
- Have there been any complications from your pregnancy such as diabetes and blood pressure changes? Some drugs may make these conditions worse.
- Which prenatal vitamins are you currently taking? Your nutritional requirements may increase during pregnancy and your pharmacist can help determine the best supplement for you.
- How often do you breastfeed throughout the day? Some drugs can be dosed around breastfeeding times.
- If you are taking medications while breastfeeding, what side effects should you watch out for in the baby? Your pharmacist can advise you.
If you were recently admitted to the hospital, it is possible that the medications you normally take have changed to better manage your medical condition(s). After your discharge, it is very important to let your pharmacist know what your new medications are (if known) and which of your original medications were stopped. You pharmacist, as a medication expert, is well positioned to help clarify the changes and to explain how your new medications work. If you or a caregiver will be visiting your pharmacy soon after a hospital discharge, be sure to talk to your pharmacist about:
- Medications that have been discontinued (if known), including prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, and herbal medicines.
- New medications that have been added.
- Increases or decreases to the doses of your medications.
- Changes to the way you take your medications (i.e., frequency of doses).
- Bad reactions, such as side effects or allergies, to medications you took in the hospital.
Please note: The information provided on this site is not medical advice and is not intended to replace a consultation with your pharmacist or physician. If you have questions about your medication(s) or are experiencing a health concern, please talk to your pharmacist.