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Your new prescription

Understanding your new prescription

You play an important role in making sure you get the best health care. Make it an active role. Ask questions when you go to your doctor's office. If he or she writes you a prescription, make sure you understand what the medicine is for and how to take it. Your pharmacist also is an excellent source of information about medications.

Remember, ask if there's something that you don't know or understand, and follow these tips:

  • Stay up-to-date: Every time your doctor prescribes a new drug, make sure he or she has an up-to-date list of all the drugs you are taking.
  • Report pregnancy and breastfeeding: Women should let the doctor know if they are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Fill all prescriptions at the same place: Have all your prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy every time. This makes it possible for them to check for drug interactions.
  • Drug allergies: Make sure the pharmacist has your medication allergies on file.
  • Check the label: Make sure the medicine dispensed is the one your doctor prescribed. Read the label – if you're still not sure, check with the pharmacist.
  • Know how to use it: Be sure that you understand the directions on the label. For example, if the directions read "four doses daily," you would want to ask if you should take it every six hours around the clock or just during waking hours.
  • Ask how to measure liquids: Ask the pharmacist the best way to measure liquids. Many household silverware "teaspoons" don't hold the full amount. Special syringes or other devices ensure you get the right dosage.
  • Know what to avoid: Check to see if you should avoid certain foods or other substances while using the medication.
  • Know the side effects: Ask for written instructions and information on side effects. If your pharmacy doesn't automatically provide this information, be sure and ask for it. Keep track of any side effects you do experience and report them to the doctor.
  • Check in once a year: Bring all your medications to an office visit at least once per year. Include prescriptions, over-the-counter products, herbal products, and street drugs.