6 Must-Ask Questions About Medications
What do good mystery novels and new prescriptions have in common? Both can keep you guessing.
Doctors should communicate six basic points whenever they prescribe a new medication. Unfortunately, research shows they usually deliver only about four of them. For the full story, ask these six critical questions when you're given a new drug:
- What's the name (trade or generic) of the medication?
- Why are you prescribing it for me?
- What are the potential side effects?
- How much should I take (how many pills, squirts, teaspoons, etc.)?
- How many doses do I need each day, and what time should I take them?
- How long should I take the medication?
Not taking your medication correctly can make you as much as 4.5 years older, not to mention it can lead to some serious health trouble, such as a hospital stay for side effects, an unintentional overdose, or a relapse of your original condition. Nevertheless, about 50 percent of people who need medications for the long term to manage health conditions stop taking them within 6 months of their last doctor's appointment -- a major no-no.
Whether you quit your pills because you didn't know the answer to question 6, or because you feel better, experience side effects, or want to save money, there's really only one good reason you should ever stop taking your medication: Your doctor tells you to.
So help your doctor help you. Jot down notes about your medications, ask for printed information -- do whatever it takes to make instructions crystal clear. Then, follow doctor's orders.
Physician communication about the cost and acquisition of newly prescribed medications. Tarn, D. M., Paterniti, D. A., Heritage, J., Hays, R. D., Kravitz, R. L., Wenger, N. S., American Journal of Managed Care 2006 Nov;12(11):657-664.