Your pharmacist is your neighborhood medication expert.
He or she can help you understand the prescriptions your doctor gives you and can help you choose the best nonprescription—sometimes called “over-the-counter” or OTC—medications for you.
Be sure to read all the printed information your pharmacist gives you. And ask your pharmacist the questions below about your OTC and prescription medications.
Questions All Patients Should Ask Their Pharmacist About Their Medications
What is the name of my medication? What is it supposed to do?
Learn the names of all your medications and know why you are taking each one. If you see more than one doctor, give each doctor a list of all the medications you are taking.
When and how should I take my medication?
If your medication is going to help you, you need to take it correctly. Ask—
- Should I take this medication on an empty stomach or with food?
- How often should I take it?
- What time of day should I take it?
What if I forget to take my medication?
Try to follow the directions as closely as possible. But if you miss a dose, don’t take a double dose. Ask your pharmacist his or her advice when you have the prescription order filled. You should know the answer to this question before it happens.
How long should I take it?
You could bring on a serious health problem if you don’t take all your medication or if you continue to take some medications too long. Your doctor should indicate the length of time with your prescription order. Ask your pharmacist about OTC medications.
What about taking other medications or drinking alcohol at the same time?
Your prescription and OTC medications may interact with other drugs and cause a harmful effect. Certain foods or alcohol also may interact with drug products. Never begin taking a new medication without asking your pharmacist if it will interact with alcohol, foods, or other medicines.
Should I change my activities?
Some drug products can make you sleepy and may affect activities such as driving or operating equipment.
Could this medication give me an allergic reaction?
If you always use the same pharmacy, your pharmacist will keep track of your medication history and can help you avoid allergic reactions to the drug or to inactive ingredients in your medications.
Should I expect any side effects?
All medications can cause side effects, but they are not necessarily serious. Your pharmacist and health care provider can help you watch for, understand, and deal with any side effects. If you have unexplained side effects, contact your health care provider or pharmacist.
What if I’m pregnant or breastfeeding?
Women should consider the possible effects of medications on an unborn child or nursing baby. Some drugs cause no problems, but others can cause birth defects if the mother takes them early in pregnancy. Some drugs pass through a mother’s system into breast milk and can harm a nursing baby.
How should I store my medications?
Medications may lose their effectiveness if they are stored incorrectly. Your bathroom medicine cabinet or your kitchen counter are not good places because of the moisture and heat in those rooms.
Know Your Medications and Know Your Pharmacist
Choose your pharmacist as carefully as you choose your doctor. Your pharmacist is an important part of your health care team. Because most people see more than one doctor, using just one pharmacy is very important. That way, your medication records will be kept in one place. Your pharmacist can help you keep track of what you are taking—prescription and OTC—and make sure that your medications will not interact with each other.