Questions to Ask Your Pharmacist About a New Prescription

Jan 10, 2024
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Are you starting the new year with a new prescription medication? For your health, it’s important to know everything about the new drug before you begin taking it. Here’s what to ask your pharmacist to ensure you’re well-informed.

Happy New Year from the team at Rural Health Corporation of Northeastern Pennsylvania in Nuremberg, Freeland, Falls, Hazleton, LaPorte, Noxen, Wilkes Barre, Shickshinny, and Edwardsville, Pennsylvania. We hope your 2024 is off to a wonderful start! 

If you’re beginning the year with a new medication prescription, our board-certified medical providers want you to be well-informed about every aspect of its use before you start taking it. 

While your healthcare provider gave you information about the medication, our pharmacists are uniquely qualified to provide additional information and guidance. Here are some of the best questions to ask your pharmacist when starting a new prescription. 

1. Is this the exact medication prescribed to me by my doctor?

This question may seem strange, since you probably expect that your pharmacy will fill the prescriptions you give them just as your medical provider ordered. But sometimes pharmacies may practice “therapeutic substitution.”

This means the pharmacist can replace the medication prescribed with one that has the same formula but may use generic ingredients. Your pharmacist may do this when the brand-name option isn’t available, or as a way to lower the cost to you or your insurance company.

In most cases, this kind of substitution isn’t problematic and can be a good thing, saving you money. However, the nuanced changes can mean you experience different side effects or don’t get the expected benefit. Asking your pharmacist this question ensures you know exactly what medicine you’ll be taking. 

2. How should I take this new medication?

It’s important to make sure you understand exactly how to take your new medication. Ask your pharmacist about the time of day you should take it, whether it needs to be the same every day, and if you need to take it with food, water, or on an empty stomach. 

If you’ve been prescribed a pill and find them difficult to take whole, be sure to ask if it’s safe to cut or crush the medication and mix it with food. You can also ask if a liquid form is available.

3. What happens if I miss a dose or take it at the wrong time?

How or whether you should or should not make up a missed dose depends on the medication you’ve been prescribed. Be sure to ask your pharmacist what you should do when you first get the prescription so you understand the steps to take if you forget a dose or take it at the wrong time.

4. How long before the medication takes effect?

Knowing how long you can expect to wait for the medication to take effect can save you worry over whether it’s effective for you (or not), and help you avoid the scenario where you might be tempted to stop taking the medication if you don’t notice a quick change. 

Ask your pharmacist if you can expect to notice the effects of your new prescription right away, or if the treatment needs to build up over time before it has a noticeable impact. And before stopping any medication, always check with your provider first. 

5. Are there foods/beverages/supplements/other medications I should avoid when taking this medicine? What about activities?

Listing all potential interactions on the label isn’t possible. Always tell your provider and  pharmacist about all other prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, or herbal supplements you take, as well as any known medication allergies you have.

Because different medications have different potential side effects, you should also ask about avoiding or changing any activities while taking the new medication. For example, you might need to stop smoking or avoid driving or operating machinery while under treatment. Your pharmacist can give you reliable guidance. 

6. What are the side effects associated with this medicine? 

Any medication you take can cause side effects, but not all side effects are dangerous. Some side effects improve after several doses of the medication, while others last longer. It’s important to know what’s expected — and what might be a sign of a problem. 

Most prescriptions come with a long list of potential side effects. Ask your pharmacist about the most common and what to do if you experience them. Also ask about the signs to watch for that could mean you’re having a serious reaction to the new medication. 

Talk to your pharmacist for personalized help

The above questions are a good starting point, but your Rural Health Corporation of Northeastern Pennsylvania pharmacist can give you more personalized information about your medication. 

For more information, contact us at one of our locations in Nuremberg, Freeland, Falls, Hazleton, LaPorte, Wilkes Barre, Noxen, Shickshinny, and Edwardsville, Pennsylvania. 

Remember: We accept most major health insurance plans, but our practice also offers a sliding fee schedule for those without insurance. If transportation is an issue, talk to us about our door-to-door transportation services.