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4 Questions to Ask Your Primary Care Physician When Prescribed New Medication

Posted April 03, 2018 by Dr. Vivek Bhalla

According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 25 percent of new prescriptions are never filled at the pharmacy. Even more staggering is the fact that medication is not taken as prescribed up to 50 percent of the time. Before your primary care physician (PCP) prescribes any medication, we review all medical history, possible allergies and evaluate and treat the cause for your visit.

There are many different reasons a PCP may prescribe new medication:

  • A temporary prescription that may eliminate/heal a sickness or injury that will gradually heal and no longer need medication
  • A more permanent prescription to aid in a chronic pain, long-term injury, illness or disease management care plan
  • A prescription that must be taken daily for serious health issues - often combined with multiple medications
  • A replacement to a permanent medication that is no longer effective or is not the best option for the patient due to complications/side effects

In order to help you become the most informed patient, we’ve compiled a list of the top 4 questions you should ask your primary care physician when prescribed a new medication:

1. What exactly is this medication for and how should I take it? This question is important, especially for the management of a chronic health issue. Over time, your PCP may add to, eliminate or completely change your medication. It is important to know what you are taking, for how long and in what way. Should you take it on an empty stomach or with food? Should you take it with a full glass of water or just enough to swallow the medication? Is there a specific time? Some antibiotics say “every six hours,” which means waking up if you need to take it in that window - not just 4 times a day when you are awake.

2. I take vitamins or supplements, will this affect my prescription? Homeopathic medicine has inspired many advances in modern science, even aiding in the production of new elements in the prescription field. However, most health products and supplements branded as “natural” are not evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Nearly half of patients who take supplements/vitamins do not discuss it with their primary care physician. Fun fact: ginkgo biloba can lower blood sugar and blood pressure and can place an individual at higher risk for bleeding. Patients must discontinue the supplement prior to surgery.

3. Does this medication interact with other things, including food? It is very important your physician knows every medication you are currently taking. Some prescriptions can interact with others and some cannot. And certain foods can seriously impact your overall wellbeing while on certain prescriptions.

4. Can I stop taking this medication on my own? Always consult your PCP immediately if you experience any uncomfortable side effects. But depending on the reason this medication was prescribed, you and your physician should discuss the duration of the prescription. You should never stop taking a medication without consulting with your physician. You should always complete the entire course of prescribed antibiotics, even if you are feeling better.

A few hard facts about new medication: Try to establish a routine by taking your medication as the label describes, at exactly the same time of day and in the way directed by your physician (with or without food or water). Always provide a complete medical history to your primary care physician. If you do not take your medication as instructed, it could lead to your condition getting more severe, an emergency situation or in extreme cases, death.

If you or your family are in need of a primary care or specialty physician, call 800.237.8662 to schedule an appointment at a Summa Health location convenient for you. Or, click here to request an appointment online.


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If your situation is an emergency, call 911.