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One Question for Your Pharmacist

Question mark made of different medications

A trip to the pharmacy should be simple. Pick up your medications and be on your way, right. But what about your medication's potential side effects or interactions with other drugs? Or what about less-expensive generic options? The questions you could ask about your medications could fill an entire article.

But instead of trying to remember a laundry list of questions, heed some simple advice: just ask one.

"I think a great question is: What do I need to know about this drug?" says Nick Cox, PharmD, a clinical pharmacist and assistant professor of pharmacotherapy at University of Utah Health. "Then you allow the pharmacist who is educating you about it to consider all those other factors."

Cox's one question suggestion also helps ease the fear of looking dumb or being embarrassed that he sees in some of his patients. People may think that medications are simple and that everyone knows how to use them, but that isn't always the case.

"Medications are inherently not intuitive," says Cox.

Allergy medication is a good example. When people begin experiencing allergy symptoms, they pick up allergy medication to make those symptoms go away. Their belief is that they take the medication when they need it and stop when they feel better.

"A lot of allergy medications are not meant to be used as needed, meaning they just don't work that well when you take them one time," Cox explains. "Those drugs work best when they're taken every day."

Antacids, like Tums, are another medication that seem straightforward and harmless, and the majority of the time they are. Yet there are certain Hepatitis C medications that can have negative interactions when taken with antacids. How many people would think to ask about drug interactions and side effects with something like Tums?

"I would say every drug has the potential to cause side effects and to be used incorrectly," says Cox.

Medications exist to help us. They ease discomfort and can even save lives. But to get the most from your medications, you need the right information. Remember Cox's one question and trust that your pharmacist is eager to help you understand what you need to know.

"As pharmacists, we have all this knowledge that oftentimes we don't even get to share with patients," says Cox. "We ultimately just want to help you."