BHealthy Blog

How to Make the Most of Your Medication

By Bethany Chandler, Pharmacy Resident, Baptist Health Medical Center-Little Rock

If there were a way to make your medication work better, wouldn’t you want to know?

People genuinely want to take their medication correctly, but sometimes instructions and safety information discussed during an office visit or at the pharmacy is overwhelming and can be forgotten. Also, patients may be reluctant or unaware of important questions to ask during a medical or pharmacy visit.

According to studies looking at the economic consequences of medication non-adherence, as much as $290 billion per year in avoidable medical spending occurs, and as a result 13 percent of total health-care expenditures are from medication instructions not being followed properly.

With better communication from health-care providers and educating patients on what kinds of questions to ask about their medication, we can maximize the benefit from medications prescribed and minimize the possible unwanted effects.

The following are important questions all patients should ask their pharmacist about their medication.

As a patient, it is important to know the name of your medication and what the medication is for. Knowing the name and purpose of your medication can prevent duplicate therapy, especially when seeing multiple doctors. If ever hospitalized, knowing the names of your medication will allow the inpatient health-care team to resume your home medications early, getting you better and home as fast as possible.

Knowing when and how you take your medication can affect how well the medication works. For example, some medications need to be taken with food, while others work best on an empty stomach. The time of day can also make a difference. For example, your body produces more cholesterol at night. Therefore, most cholesterol reducing medication works better when taken at night.

It is important to ask about common side effects regarding your medication. A side effect is an undesirable secondary outcome that occurs in addition to the therapeutic benefit of your medication. All medications come with side effects. Many are minor, some are just an inconvenience, and a few are serious. For example, pain medication such as hydrocodone can cause constipation. An over-the-counter laxative and stool softener should be recommended at the time of prescription pick-up to prevent this side effect from affecting your quality of life.

If you forget to take your medication, it is important that you understand what to do since instructions are not the same for all medication. Sometimes an injury may result if a dose is doubled while other times it may not. If forgetting to take your medication is a common problem, talk with your pharmacist. There are tools we can offer ranging from pillboxes to mobile apps that remind you when your next dose is due.

It is important to know how long you are supposed to take a medication. You could bring on serious health problems if you don’t take all your medication or if you continue to take some medication too long. Your doctor should indicate the length of time with your prescription order. If this is forgotten, it is important to tell your pharmacist so we can help answer this question.

I know from experience that you can enter an appointment with a list of questions in mind, but when the time comes to ask, you draw a blank. If this sounds familiar, write down your questions ahead of time or bring the list of questions provided below to your next physician appointment or pharmacy visit.

Knowing your medication is a great start to taking charge of your health. Taking your medications as prescribed may reduce your cost of health care and allow your medication to work as effectively as possible, which is the ultimate goal.

Questions Patients Should Ask About Their Medication

  • What is the name of my medication?
  • What is it supposed to do?
  • When and how should I take my medication?
  • Should I take this medication with food?
  • How often should I take it?
  • What time of day should I take it?
  • What are the common side effects of my medication?
  • What if I forget to take my medication?
  • How long should I take it?