Questions You Should Ask Your Doctor About New Medications

ASK: About Prescriptions

You’re getting another one of those little white pieces of paper. Here’s a list of questions you should know the answers to before stepping out the door.

  • What sort of side effects does that medication have?
  • Will it interact with the other 10 pills I’m taking every day?
  • How does that medication work to treat my issue?
  • How often am I supposed to take it and at what dose?
  • How do your other patients generally react to this treatment?
  • Should I start it right away or wean off any other medications first?
  • Will it work immediately or take a few days or weeks?
  • Does it cause weight gain?
  • How long has this medication been on the market

The End of the Road

There is one more question that I now ask that I didn’t a few years ago. With the outrageous pharmacy I’ve now acquired under my bathroom sink, I know that there is a limit to what will and won’t work after a period of time. I also know that doctors hate to hear this asked and love to tell you “we’ll get there when we get there” in response to it.

Still, I can’t help myself from wondering: “What happens if this medicine doesn’t work?” Will we try another? Are there any on the market with the same intended effect? Or is this an “end of the road” prescription?

I didn’t think of that question until a few months ago. It had been a year of nasty sinus infections leading up to a major sinus surgery, and for two months post-op I was struggling with an even nastier staph infection in my sinuses.  I had been off my IVIG for almost two years at this point and had been on just about every antibiotic known to man.

My ENT was able to run a test on my culture to see which antibiotics would work best to eradicate it. Turns out, there was only ONE more antibiotic that could. I was now immune to all others. It was a scary moment I had been warned about all my life. Being immunodeficient (and undiagnosed) I was on antibiotics around 90% of the time. It was probably a miracle that I managed to even have one option still left.

My point is: Don’t be afraid to ask about the next step if this one falls through. Knowing what options you have (and don’t have) can make the difference between tolerating unpleasant side effects or giving up on a treatment, and can prevent you from overusing an unstable option.