Ask Your Pharmacist
I tend to get a bit nervous when I see my doctor and even I when I bring my prescriptions to the pharmacy to be filled. When asked if I have any questions about my medications, I often find myself at a loss for words. What sort of questions should I ask about my medications?
It’s normal to be nervous at a physician or nurse practitioner’s office and even at your pharmacy. Whenever I have an appointment to see my physician, I’m usually a little anxious about it. After all, we usually don’t go to these appointments because everything is going well. These days community pharmacies are bustling, and I know that some patients feel uneasy about asking questions at the counter. However, you should know that pharmacists are happy to answer any questions you may have. It’s an important part of their job, and most pharmacies have a counselling space if you don’t want to ask your questions at the counter.
Here are five questions to ask your pharmacist about your medications:
- Are there any changes to my medications?
This is an important question to discuss with not only your doctor/nurse practitioner but also your pharmacist. Have any medications been added, stopped, or changed (and if so, why)? This may seem like a straightforward question, but it is also an important one. This simple question provides a chance to review with your pharmacist any changes to your prescriptions since your last visit. Importantly, it also allows a chance to identify any unintended changes to your medications. If changes to your medications have occurred, be sure to ask your doctor or nurse practitioner to provide you with a new prescription during your visit. This is key to ensuring that the medication profile at your pharmacy is accurate and up to date which may be vitally important during a health emergency.
- What medications do I need to keep taking?
What medications do I need to keep taking, and for how long? Medications are prescribed for a specific reason or indication. Sometimes the reason for taking the medication changes, but we continue taking the prescription.
- What is the proper way to use my medications?
Learning how to properly take your prescription gives you the best chance of getting the most benefit out of your medicine. This includes finding out whether it matters when during the day the medication is taken. Does your medication need to be taken at the same time each day? Should your medication be taken with food or on an empty stomach? Is it okay to take your medication at the same time you take other prescriptions, over-the-counter medicine, or herbal remedies? If you have been prescribed an inhaler, make sure you practice how to use the device with your pharmacist before you leave the pharmacy.
- What should I watch for on this medication?
Is my medication working and how will I know? How long will it take for my medication to begin working? For example, if you are starting a new antidepressant medication, when will the benefits begin and what specific signs or symptoms will improve first? What are the common side effects of this medication? If a side effect occurs, how will I know and what will I do?
- Is follow-up required for this medication?
Every six months, ask yourself this question: “Does it make sense that I am on this medication?”. If you are not sure, make an appointment with your pharmacist for a medication review to go over your prescription and over-the-counter medications.
It is so important for you, the patient, to have a good understanding of your medications. The only way this can happen is if you feel comfortable to ask questions when you are uncertain. Asking questions and taking interest in your medications shows your care providers that you are being proactive in your own health. We love to see this!
Dr Kevin Duplisea (PharmD BSc. Pharm, BSc. ACPR) is a pharmacist at Sharp’s Corner Drugstore in Sussex, New Brunswick. His opinions expressed in this newspaper are published for educational and informational purposes only, and are not intended as a diagnosis, treatment or as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Send your questions to AskYourNBPharmacist@gmail.com.
Sussex pharmacist Kevin Duplisea dispenses information and advice on a wide range of pharmacy questions in a regular column published in several newspapers.
If you have a question you’d like to see answered in his column, you can send it to him at AskYourNBPharmacist@gmail.com.