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  6. Stop - Learn - Go: Tips for Talking with Your Pharmacist to Learn How to Use Medicines Safely
  1. Tips for Seniors

Stop - Learn - Go: Tips for Talking with Your Pharmacist to Learn How to Use Medicines Safely

Points to discuss with your pharmacist and other healthcare providers

Your pharmacist can help you learn how to use your prescription and nonprescription (over-the-counter) medicines safely and effectively. You can also use these tips when talking with your other healthcare providers.

Tell your pharmacist

  • Every medicine you use, especially if you use multiple pharmacies, even if it is the same pharmacy chain.
    • Keep a record and give it to your pharmacist. List all the prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbals, and other supplements you use. Tell your pharmacist exactly how you are taking the medicine.
    • Don’t forget to tell your pharmacist about any changes to your medicines. This includes anything you have stopped taking.
  • If you've had any allergic reactions or problems with medicines, dietary supplements, food, medical devices or other medical treatments.
    • What kind of reaction did you have? Did your throat swell up? Did you get a rash? Or was it a stomach ache or diarrhea?
  • Any medical conditions you have or have had, including any abnormal lab results.
  • Anything that could affect your use of medicine, such as trouble with swallowing, reading small labels, understanding English, remembering to take your medicine, distinguishing the look of one medicine from another, paying for medicines, or transportation to the pharmacy.  Your pharmacist may be able to help, so just ask!
  • If you plan to start or have started something new such as a new medicine, supplement, diet, or exercise regime. Your pharmacist can help you avoid medicines, supplements, foods, and other things that don't mix well with your medicines.
  • If you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed.
  • The best phone number to reach you and your current address.  . This is in case the pharmacist has any questions for you or if there are any issues. If you prefer to receive text messages instead of phone calls, let your pharmacy know! Many pharmacies have the ability to text.
  • If there have been any changes to your insurance plan/policy/card.

Ask your pharmacist

  • What is the most important information I should know about this medicine?
  • How do I pronounce the name of my medicine? Does it go by any other name(s)? What are the brand and generic (non-brand) names?
  • Are there any cheaper options? Is a generic available? Are there any co-pay assistance coupons?
  • How does this medicine work and what is it used for?
  • How and when should I use it? How much do I use? Should I take it with food or without food, before a meal or after a meal? What time of the day should I use it? How many times a day is it used? Is there a limit on how often I should use it?
  • How long should I use it? Can I stop using the medicine or use less if I feel better? In what circumstances should I stop taking this medicine?
  • What should I do if I …miss a dose? ….throw up shortly after taking a dose? ….use too much? ….lose the medicine?
  • Will this take the place of anything else I am taking?
  • When will the medicine start working? How should I expect to feel?
  • Are there any special directions for using this?
  • Should I avoid any other medicines, dietary supplements, drinks, foods, activities, or other things? Do I have to space this medicine out from any other medicines or food?
  • Does this medicine contain any ingredients I am allergic to?
  • Is there anything I should watch for, like allergic reactions or side effects? What are the serious side effects? What do I do if I get any?
  • Will I need any tests to check the medicine's effects (blood tests, x-rays, other)? When will I need those?
  • How and where should I store this medicine? Is it stored at room temperature or refrigerated or frozen? What should I do if I left it in a hot car?
  • When should I throw out this medicine? When does it expire?
  • Is there a medication guide or other patient information for this medicine?
  • Where and how can I get more written information?
  • When should I contact my doctor about this medicine? In what situation should I call 911?

Before you leave the pharmacy after picking up your prescription

  • Look to be sure you have the right medicine. If you've bought the medicine before, make sure this medicine has the same shape, color, size, markings, and packaging. Anything different? Don’t hesitate to ask your pharmacist. If it seems different when you use it, tell your pharmacist, doctor, or other healthcare professional.
  • Be sure you know the right dose for the medicine and you know how to use it. Unsure about anything? Ask your pharmacist.
  • For liquid medicines, make sure there is a measuring spoon, cup, or syringe. If the medicine doesn't come with a special measuring tool, ask your pharmacist for one. (Spoons used for eating and cooking may give the wrong dose. Don't use them.)
  • Be sure you have any information the pharmacist can give you about the medicine. Read it and save it.
  • Get the pharmacy’s phone number and hours, so you can call back for any questions or refills.

Go to Buying and Using Medicines Safely to learn about:

  • Choosing the medicine that's best for you
  • Buying medicine from sources you can trust
  • Using medicine to increase its safety and effectiveness
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