Questions Every Patient Should ask Before Taking Medications

  • What is the name of the medicine my doctor (or other health care practitioner) ordered for me?
  • What are the brand name and generic name of this medicine? Can I take a generic version of this medicine?
  • What does the medicine look like?
  • What am I taking this medicine for? What is it supposed to do?
  • Does this new prescription mean I should stop taking any other medicines I am taking now? Is this new medicine safe to take with my other medicines, including over-the-counter medicines and dietary supplements?
  • How do I take the medicine and how often do I take it? If I need to take it three times a day, does that mean to take it at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, or to take it every 8 hours? What do I do if I miss a dose?
  • How long will I be taking it? When should I expect the medicine to start working?
  • How can I tell if it is working? Do I need to take it all, or should I stop when I feel better?
  • Can I get a refill? How often can I get a refill?
  • Are there foods, drinks (including alcoholic beverages), other medicines, or activities to avoid while I am taking this medicine?
  • Are there any tests I need to take while I am on this medicine?
  • What are the side effects that can happen with this medicine? What do I do if they occur? When should I tell the doctor about a problem or side effect?
  • How should I store this medicine?
  • What printed information can you give me about this medicine? (Is it available in large print or a language other than English?)

Sources: National Council on Patient Information and Education Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality - U.S. Department of Health & Human Services