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Talking with Your Provider or Pharmacist About Your Medicines

It is important for you to know about your medicines. Asking questions is a good idea. Talk about your prescriptions with your healthcare provider or pharmacist.

Begin by asking these questions:

  • What is the name of the medicine? Medicines can have both a trade name (such as Tylenol) and a chemical name (such as acetaminophen). It is often important to know both.
  • How will it help me?
  • How and when should I take it?
  • How long do I need to take this medicine?
  • How much should I take? Are the instructions on the label?
  • What do I do if I miss a scheduled dose?
  • Should I take the medicine with food or on an empty stomach?
  • What foods, drinks, medicines, or activities should be avoided while I am taking this medicine?
  • Will it interact with other drugs I am taking?
  • Are there any side effects? What should I do if they occur?
  • Is there any written information about this medicine that I should have?
  • Whom should I call if I have questions later about the medicine or side effects?
  • Where should I store my medicine?
  • Should I talk to you before I stop taking this medicine?

If you are pregnant, planning to get pregnant, or breast-feeding, ask:

  • Is this medicine safe during pregnancy?
  • Is it safe while I'm breast-feeding my baby?

If you have small children, ask:

  • What should I do if my child accidentally takes this medicine?

Tell your healthcare provider or pharmacist:

  • The names of all the medicines you are taking, including prescription and nonprescription drugs, vitamins, supplements, herbs, and other natural remedies. Bring a list of all the medicines you are taking with you every time you visit your provider. If it's hard for you to make a list, then bring the actual prescription bottles. (In many cases, bringing individual pills will not be helpful. They need to be in their original containers.)
  • Any problems you or your family members have with medicines, such as allergic reactions or side effects.
  • If you are or think you might be pregnant or if you are breast-feeding.

Finally, speak up:

  • If you don't understand what you have been told, ask for the instructions to be explained again. A good way to check your understanding is to ask yourself if you could explain it to your family when you get home.
  • Take notes on what you are told about your medicines.
  • Ask for additional written information to take home.
  • Call back if you have additional questions.

For more information, you may want to contact:

National Council on Patient Information and Education
Phone: 301-656-8565
Web site:

The National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE) is a nonprofit organization. Its goal is to promote the safe and effective use of prescription medicines.

Disclaimer: This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information provided is intended to be informative and educational and is not a replacement for professional medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.

HIA File drug4256.htm Release 13/2010

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