How to Make Smart Medication Choices
Your doctor isn’t the only one calling the shots about your health. You’ve got a say, too, especially when it comes to the medicines you take.
“You play a big role in creating your treatment plan,” says Wanda Filer, MD, president-elect of the American Academy of Family Physicians. “You know your medical history, medications you’re allergic to, and your budget.”
A good day for registered pharmacist Michelle Kasperowitz, 37, is when she’s peppered with questions. They can range from which blood pressure monitor to buy to whether a rash is poison ivy. And, because she works in a supermarket, she gets lots of food-related inquiries as well. “One man came up to me recently, waving a bag of broccoli,” says Kasperowitz, who works at the ShopRite Pharmacy in Woodbridge, N.J. “He’s on a blood thinner, and he wanted to know if he could eat it.”
Talk about these things with your doctor. Together you’ll make the best decisions about the medicine you need.
Questions to Ask
There are a lot of factors that go into picking a treatment that’s right for you. Ask your doctor these questions:
Why do I need this medicine? “You’re more likely to take a medication if you understand why you’re taking it,” says Eva Waite, MD, assistant professor of internal medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
If you skip a medicine, it can have serious effects on your health. For example, if you don’t take your blood pressure drugs, it can lead to heart disease or stroke.
What are the side effects? Find out what to expect. It can help you decide which medications work best for your lifestyle.
“Together, you can try to pick the ones that have the fewest side effects or those that are most acceptable to you,” Waite says.
For example, certain drugs might make you feel like you have to use the bathroom more often. For some people this may not be a big deal. But if your job involves spending a lot of time in your car, then you may need to find a medicine that treats your condition without this side effect.
How often do I need to take it? If it’s hard for you to remember to take your medicine several times a day, talk it over with your doctor.
“There are many medications that come in combinations,” Waite says. “So instead of taking three different blood pressure pills, you may be able to take just one pill that contains all three.”
How much does it cost? Even if you have health insurance, drugs can be pricey. Don’t let that stop you from taking them.
“If you let your doctor know that cost is an issue, he or she can often help you find a cheaper alternative,” Filer says. “Sometimes your doctor can adjust your dose so that you only need to take a medication once a day instead of twice. This may also make a difference in the cost.”