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Medicine > Understanding Your Prescriptions

Get More From Your Pharmacy Visits

Prescription medications are an important part of your treatment plan. You can use the suggestions below to help get more out of every trip you take to your pharmacy.

Questions to Ask Your Pharmacist
Questions to Ask Your Pharmacist

When dropping off a prescription

  • Consider using the same pharmacy for all prescriptions, if possible. Doing so helps the pharmacist keep track of all medicines you or the person in your care take. If you need to use more than one pharmacy, give each pharmacist a list of all medicines.
  • Find out if the medicine comes in another form. If you or the person in your care has difficulty swallowing pills, for example, ask the pharmacist if the medicine comes in smaller or easier-to-swallow tablets or capsules. Some medicines come in liquid form, too. Never crush, break, or chew tablets without first checking with the doctor or pharmacist.
  • Ask if a generic drug is available. A generic drug has the same active ingredients as the brand name drug and may cost less. Some brand name medicines can be substituted with a generic to help save on prescription costs.

When picking up a prescription

  • Look over the label. The pharmacy label should be easy to read and should list the name of the medicine written on the prescription. Be sure to ask the pharmacist about anything on the label that you do not understand. If the pharmacy label is hard to read, ask the pharmacist to redo the label in larger type. Not sure where to find certain information on the pharmacy label? The example below may help.
Prescription Drug Pharmacy Label
Prescription Drug Pharmacy Label
  • Ask questions. Even if you went over the particulars with your health care provider, you may have additional questions about the medicine, its purpose, how it should be taken, or its side effects. Your pharmacist is a trained medical professional and a great resource for answering these questions.
  • Confirm handling instructions. Ask the pharmacist where you should store medicine. Some medicines need to be refrigerated. Others need to be stored in a dry place. Whatever the pharmacist suggests, be sure to store medicines in a place that’s easy to access but where children cannot easily find or reach them.

11 questions to ask your pharmacist

Your pharmacist can be an important member of your health care team. He or she is a knowledgeable resource on many aspects of medicine therapy and may be able to provide valuable advice regarding such things as timing your medications to work better, common side effects, and more. So take the time to discuss any concerns you may have. Here are 11 questions to help get the conversation started.

  1. What is the dosage of the medicine? Are there other special dosing instructions I should be aware of?
  2. Can this medicine be taken with the other prescription and nonprescription medicines I’m taking?
  3. Should this medicine be taken with or without food? Are there any foods or drinks I should stay away from when taking this medicine?
  4. Can this medicine be chewed, crushed, or dissolved to make it easier to swallow?
  5. What should I do if I take too much of this medicine or miss a dose?
  6. What side effects should I be aware of?
  7. Can I keep up with my usual activities (such as driving) and routine while taking this medicine?
  8. What services does my pharmacy provide? Services can include:
      • Home delivery
      • Automatic refill
      • Text message reminders
  9. How long do I need to take this medication? Can I stop taking it if I feel better?
  10. When traveling, what can I do if I misplace or run out of this medicine?
  11. Does the pharmacy offer any vaccines that may be appropriate for me?

Print this list and take it with you on your next pharmacy visit.

If you switch pharmacies

If you’re using a new pharmacy, make a list of all the prescription medicines you’re currently taking—along with over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, supplements, and herbals. Give this list to the pharmacist and ask him or her to review it and store it with your records.

Good advice for caregivers

Consider filling all prescriptions at the same pharmacy to make it easier for the pharmacist to track possible adverse drug interactions or side effects.

Speak with the pharmacist about the family member or friend you’re caring for. In addition to asking the questions here, explain some of the things you do as a caregiver, such as helping with meals or visits with doctors. The pharmacist may be able to provide helpful information, advice, and support.