October 6, 2016

Making the Most of Your Pharmacy Consult: What Should You Be Asking?


Too often, we overlook the significance of a consultation with our pharmacist. Perhaps we’re too busy or simply do not know what to ask. Tim Gentilcore, PharmD, Director-Retail Pharmacy at Mission Health, explains how you can make the most of your visit with this crucial healthcare partner.

“Community pharmacists are trained to assist patients who have questions about drug therapy,” Gentilcore said. “So an easy way to get the most out of your time with the pharmacist is to come prepared with questions. We can tell you what we think is important, but you as a patient might have questions specific to your lifestyle and how your medication regimen might impact it.”

To get the conversation started consider the following inquiries. Gentilcore offers explanations on why these questions are important ones for you to ask.

Q: Are there side effects?

Why: Drugs are designed to do great things for patients, but sometimes the side effects can outweigh the benefits. It is important to understand what those side effects are and also when to expect them. Some side effects are noticed right away (within hours), others can take weeks to develop depending on the drug.

Q: Are there things I shouldn’t eat/do while on the medication?

Why: This is a very important question because our diets can often unintentionally interfere with the efficacy of a drug. The classic example of this is with patients who take the blood thinner warfarin. They are often directed away from a diet high in green leafy vegetables, like spinach, which are high in vitamin K, as this can counteract the warfarin.

Q: What if I miss a dose?

Why: Make sure to find out if you should simply skip the dose and take it at your next schedule dosing time or if you should take it as soon as you remember. Sometimes in rare cases you might need to take two doses at your next regularly schedule time, again this is rare.

Q: How should I store my medication?

Why: A very important question, specifically with injectable drugs like insulin and with any drug that is mixed with water like children’s antibiotics.

Q: Does my new medication interact with any other medications/herbs?

Why: While natural supplements can often be wonderful adjuvant therapies, it is very important to make sure that the supplements don’t counteract the drug therapy you have been prescribed.

Q: When will I need new refills from my prescriber?

Why: Many prescriptions last for a full year if your doctor prescribes them for that time, but there are several that aren’t legally allowed to carry you for a full year, and you may need to be in more routine communication with your physician to maintain the therapy if desired.

Q: How will I know it is working?

Why: While certain drugs like antibiotics, pain medications and asthma inhalers have pretty concrete symptom relief, there are many other medications that might be working without you even knowing. It is important to know what to look for, whether it be in physical symptom relief or in lab test results during follow-up care.

Gentilcore also reminds us that patients who don’t ask the right questions can spend more than they intend to.

“Pharmacists can often recommend products that might save you money compared to the drug you have been prescribed,” he said. “Additionally they can often offer over-the-counter products and supplements that can help to make your drug therapy even more effective than stand-alone therapy.”

Another benefit to a proactive consultation is understanding how and when to take your medication to get the most out of the therapy.

“We can make sure you understand whether taking your medication with or without food is best. If it is better to take it at bedtime or first thing in the morning. Or if it is okay to take all of your medications at the same time,” Gentilcore said.

Mission Pharmacy currently serves patients and employees at nine locations throughout western North Carolina in Buncombe, Henderson, McDowell, Mitchell and Graham counties. The pharmacies have strong partnerships with Mission outpatient clinics and practices to ensure that patients receive exceptional quality pharmacy care.