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Your Go-To Pharmacist FAQ

Updated: Aug 26, 2021

Ask these questions to help make sense of puzzling prescriptions

Medicine is a complicated subject, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Every time I pick up a prescription, my pharmacist asks the usual, “Do you have any questions about your medication?” I was in the routine of thoughtlessly saying no, giving in to my ongoing fear of looking foolish for asking questions. But the other option is trusting the reliably unreliable Dr. Google. My solution? Five questions that I ask my pharmacist to help me understand my medication and what to expect from it.

1. What does this medication do? When can I expect it to start working?

Okay, so this one may seem a little obvious, but starting with the basics helps you know what to expect. Keying into the details of what your medicine does and how long it takes to see the effects is a valuable part of confirming if it is actually working. While you may be hyper-aware of any changes at the beginning, the effects of medicine that takes several weeks to work may slip under your radar. Having a general timeline will let you know when to check back in.

2. What are the common side effects? If I experience them, what can I do to reduce or manage them?

This one can be a little scary and reminiscent of the medicine commercials where half of the ad is a monologue about side effects. But unfortunately, we still have to watch out for them. Luckily, asking for details about side effects can help you better identify them and figure out ways to prevent or cope with them.

3. Is there anything I should avoid while on this medication? (e.g., activities, foods, prescriptions, or other medicines)

Prescription meds can already do a lot on their own; they can do a lot more (and a lot worse) when combined with anything that reacts badly with them. Some things like alcohol are typical on the list of “things to avoid,” but staying up to date on everything to watch out for can help improve your treatment experience. It’s important to be aware if you should be doing anything in particular, like wearing extra SPF or avoiding grapefruit.

4. Is there a less costly generic or compounded version I can use?

You can talk with your pharmacist about exploring alternatives to name-brand medications. While the generic names for medicines can easily be confused with a keyboard smash, the upside is that they typically cost less. Similarly, compounded medications are a cost-effective alternative that can be prepared to meet your exact specifications.

5. How should I store my meds? (As in, should I take my grandmother’s advice and put them all in the refrigerator?)

I always wondered why she kept the bottles in her fridge. But some medicines, especially antibiotics, are recommended to be kept cold. Finding ways to dispose of your medication and syringes is also vital to keep you and others safe. Some pharmacies have on-site disposal for pharmaceutical waste, including tablets, syringes, sharps, and more.

Being prepared for a pharmacy visit can help you find valuable advice and peace of mind. So the next time your pharmacist asks the usual, “Do you have any questions about your medication?” you can have some questions of your own.

If you’re on the hunt for a pharmacist to answer these questions and more, book a pharmacy consultation at

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