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Rx Q&A: Questions to Ask Your Pharmacist

Whether you are sick or not, you probably don’t look forward to picking up medications from your local pharmacy.

Trying to read labels, decipher the medical jargon, and understand the risks or side effects of any drug can be daunting. When is the last time you actually listened to your pharmacist or asked questions regarding your medication?

Instead of being left confused or overwhelmed, ask the questions that will give you a better understanding. Your pharmacist is a healthcare provider after all, and should be seen that way.

Marijke Vroomen Durning, RN, creator of the website, believes there are several important questions you should be asking.

Generic vs. Brand Name Drugs: What’s the Difference?

Generic brands can save you a lot of money, and are a great option for people on tight budgets or in difficult situations. In most situations, a generic drug will be as safe and effective as its brand name counterpart. However, there is the occasional situation where your body does better on the brand name version, such as with thyroid or seizure medicine. This is especially true if you’ve been using the brand name drug and are switching to generic.

Generic drugs generally have the same medicinal ingredients, but may use different colored dyes, or perhaps a different binder that may slightly affect its formula.

How Fast Will You See Results?

Durning feels that patients are not asking this question enough. You are rushed out of the doctor’s office before you have a chance to think of any questions to ask, and you may not think about asking your pharmacist. Different medications have different timelines, but “allergy medicine should see results within 24 to 48 hours, while pain relief should be pretty quick,” says Durning. Other medications may not affect you as quickly, so you should definitely ask your pharmacist to clarify.

What Should You Do if You Miss a Dose?

If you constantly travel, especially across different time zones, or tend to forget things, you may find yourself accidentally missing a dose. Often, your pharmacist will recommend taking it as soon as you’ve realized you missed the dosage, as long as it’s not too close to the next time you were supposed to take it.

Most medicine cannot be taken in double doses unless specifically noted on the label. If it’s only a one-off occurrence, you should be ok. If it happens continuously, however, Durning recommends finding a new system that will work better for you. This could include using your smartphone as a reminder or putting notes on the fridge.

Ask About Best Storage Options

Contrary to what you’ve seen or heard, the bathroom is about the worst place you can put your medicine cabinet. It’s humid and heats up and cools down on a regular basis. Instead, look for a cool, dark place where you can store your medicine. Some liquid medications, antibiotics, and suppositories may need to be refrigerated. Other drugs may come in dark containers to reduce exposure to light.

What are the Side Effects?

Most drugs have huge booklets containing every single adverse effect that has happened to someone while taking that particular medication. Instead of sifting through all of the fine print, ask your pharmacist what the most common side effects are.

Some side effects can be reduced or managed better just by tweaking how or when you take your medicine. For example, if a certain medication makes you drowsy, opt to take it before bed as long as you aren’t required to take it at a specific time.

Listen in as Marijke Vroomen Durning, RN, shares specific questions you should be asking your pharmacist.
Rx Q&A: Questions to Ask Your Pharmacist
Featured Speaker:
Marijke Vroomen DurningMarijke Vroomen Durning is a health writer and registered nurse from Montreal, Canada. She specializes in writing clear and concise information to help people learn about their health concerns in a way that makes sense, without the heavy-duty jargon that just confuses the matter.

Lauren Allen (Scialabba) is the Assistant Director of Operations and Producer at Doctorpodcasting where she helps marketing departments in healthcare organizations grow their podcast library and assist their needs on a daily basis. Outside of work she enjoys spending time with family, eating pizza, and soaking up Chicago's summer weather.