Medications Questions Checklist

Questions I find useful to have answers to, whenever I have to take medications. For any type of medication. If I’m not sure, well, asking a doctor or a pharmacist doesn’t hurt.

  • How is this medication supposed to work? Is there a theoretical basis for this medication? There are some medications that don’t have a theoretical basis *cough* lithium *cough* but having a theoretical basis is reassuring and useful in helping me predict how I might react.
  • What should I expect from this medication? What side effects am I likely to get? What rare side effects should I be aware of and look out for? Are there side effects that, if they appear, mean that I should proceed directly to the hospital, not passing go and not collecting two hundred dollars? (Example – the Lamictal Rash)
  • What should I do if I accidentally miss a dose? With some medications, the dose is just skipped. In others, you can make up for it. Additionally – what does “missed” mean? How big of a window do I have? Some birth controls have very small windows.
  • Does this come in generic? Generics are in general cheaper. This isn’t just “does this specific med come in generic”, it’s also “does something in this class come in generic?” If you get a branded combo med, can you take the two parts separately, as generics, and is that cheaper?
  • How is this metabolized? Is it primarily hepatic, renal, or something different? If hepatic, what liver enzymes does it rely on? There are quite a bit of variation to liver enyzmes; if you happened to get a less effective variant (or maybe even a super effective variant), asking your doctor about adjusting medication dosage may help.
  • Does this medication have any special instructions? Do I have to take it with food? Or drink a certain amount of water with it? Must I avoid grapefruit? Stand on my head?
  • Corollary: Does this medication interact with any other medication I’m taking, or any of the supplements? I don’t supplement much – multivitamin, D3 (for which I am borderline deficient in), fish oil (which has pretty good evidence), B-complex, and caffeine, so in general I don’t have many issues with supplement-med reactions. Some medications react badly with supplements or generic medications: St. John’s Wort makes birth control less useful, for example, and some cold medications raise serotonin levels, which is dangerous if you’re on a SSRI.
  • If I discontinue this medication, what should I be aware of? What are the chances I’ll be able to discontinue? When can I discontinue? Am I looking for a specific outcome, or will I be done with this medication after a certain amount of time, or do I have to take it forever? What are the chances that I’ll be forced to discontinue, especially forced to discontinue quickly?
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