Questions About Your Medications? - VA Palo Alto Health Care System
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VA Palo Alto Health Care System


Questions About Your Medications?

Questions all patients should ask their pharmacist about their medications:

1. What is the name of the medication, and what is it supposed to do?
You should know the names of your medications, both prescription and nonprescription. Because you may see more than one doctor, you should always inform each doctor of all the medications you are taking. This will help ensure that the medication you take - prescription or nonprescription - is appropriate for your condition.

2. When and how do I take it?
Taking your medication correctly is very important to ensure that it gives you the help you expect. Examples of questions you might ask are: Should I take this medication on an empty stomach or with food? How often should I take it? Do I take it at the same time every day?

3. How long should I take it?
Serious problems may result from not taking all your medication or by continuing medications too long. Your doctor should indicate the length of time with your prescription order. Ask your pharmacist about nonprescription medicines.

4. Does this medication contain anything that can cause an allergic reaction?
If you always use the same pharmacy, the pharmacist will keep your medication history and can help you avoid allergic reactions to the drug or to inactive ingredients in your medications.

5. Should I avoid alcohol, any other medications, foods, and/or activities?
Your prescription and nonprescription medications may interact with other drugs causing a harmful effect. Certain foods or alcohol may also interact with drug products. Never begin taking a new medication - prescription or nonprescription - without asking your pharmacist if it will interact with alcohol, foods or other medicines. Some drug products can cause drowsiness and may affect activities such as driving.

6. Should I expect any side effects?
All medications can cause side effects, but they are not necessarily serious. Your pharmacist and health care provider can help you anticipate and understand these side effects and help you deal with them. If you experience unexplained side effects, contact your health care provider or pharmacist.

7. Is there a generic version of the medication my doctor has prescribed?
Your pharmacist can tell you if there is an approved generic version of your medication. Not all prescription medicines have generic counterparts. Generic medicines are usually less expensive than their brand name counterparts.

8. What if I forget to take my medication?
Try to follow the directions as closely as possible. However, you occasionally may make mistakes or forget to take your medications. The decision to take a missed dose depends on the drug. Don't panic and take a double dose. Ask your pharmacist his or her advice when you have the prescription order dispensed. You should know the answer to this question before it happens.

9. How should I store my medications?
Medications may lose their effectiveness if stored incorrectly. The "medicine cabinet" in the bathroom is not a good place for storage because of the moisture and heat. Ask your pharmacist about the proper storage of all prescription and nonprescription medications.


A VA Palo Alto Health Care System pharmacist is available to discuss your medications with you:

Monday through Friday
9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
excluding holidays

Please call (800) 311-2511 and follow the prompts to speak with a pharmacist.