Many doctors who prescribe medication are rushed and give only minimal information about what a drug does, why you may need it and how you’re likely to feel when you take it. Here’s what to ask your doctor and/or pharmacist…

Why did you pick this medication vs. other similar ones? Your doctor should have good reasons—such as, the drug does a better job than others…has a longer track record…has fewer or less-severe side effects…etc.

What is your experience with this medication? Asking this may encourage your doctor to tell you about experiences, both pro and con, that other patients have had with this drug, which may help you know what to expect and how to take it successfully.

What side effects can be caused by this medication? Ask which side effects are common and which are rare…and which may be relatively mild (such as flushing or nausea) and which, if any, could be serious (such as kidney disease, uncontrolled bleeding, high blood pressure, etc.).

How much does this medication cost? This question is for your pharmacist. Before filling your prescription, see whether the drug is covered by your insurance plan. If it’s not and the price is high, ask your doctor whether it makes sense to switch to a similar medication that is covered.

Will a generic medication work as well as a brand-name?  Generics usually work as well as brand name drugs—but not always. If it would cost you less, ask about starting with a generic and switching later if need be.

How will this medication interact with other drugs or supplements I’m taking? Because so many drugs can interact with other drugs and with supplements, tell your doctor everything you’re taking—including vitamins, herbs, other supplements, and over-the-counter drugs. Your doctor can then tell you if an interaction is likely.

Are you customizing the dose to me? Bodies are different. If, for example, you’re smaller than average or unusually sensitive to drugs, you might be able to start with a lower dose and build up if you need it.

Should I take this medication with food? Many drugs can cause serious stomach irritation when taken on an empty stomach. Others require food to be absorbed into the bloodstream. On the other hand, some medications should be taken on an empty stomach. Ask your doctor what he/she recommends.

Should I worry about the expiration date? While many drugs remain effective past their expiration dates, it may be best not to take a risk. If you won’t be using all the medication soon, ask your doctor or pharmacist whether it’s ok to use once the expiration date is reached.

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