9 important questions to ask your doctor about a new prescription

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In her great, helpful new book, “Health Your Self,” health journalist Janice M. Horowitz explains what really drives your health care and how to take charge of it. This excerpt equips you with essential questions to ask the next time your doctor prescribes a medication.

Our medical experience is maddening – and there are always hidden factors behind that compromise our care. But when you’re in the thick of it, sitting down with a doctor and wanting to be the right patient, you’re likely to nod, agree, and agree when your doctor says, “Just take these. pills every morning. “

Instead, you need to straighten up, break through the curtain that obscures what’s really going on, and start asking questions. When you ask them, make it clear that you are not trying to be an aggressive patient. Be polite. Doctors are people too and will treat you better if you are kind.

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9 questions to ask about a new prescription

These nine questions aren’t always easy to ask, but you need to ask them. And don’t forget to write down the answers.

How real is the benefit of the drug? For example, if a drug reduces the risk of premature death by 20%, but your risk is only 10% to start with, the drug will only lower your risk by 2 percentage points, reducing your absolute risk to 8%. . This is the number you want to pay attention to. Is it worth taking a drug – cost, potential side effects and all – just to move the needle 2 percentage points?

What are the side effects? Once you know this, you can determine if the opportunity to endure them is worth the benefit you might see in it. The same goes for how this medicine will interact with anything you take, including supplements. If your doctor has not asked you what other medicines and vitamins you are taking, ask them to ask you.

Will this be a “lifelong” drug? It is medicine that you will need to take for years, and usually for the rest of your life, such as blood pressure or cholesterol lowering medicine. If it is a lifelong drug, a red flag should be issued.

Explain that you do not want to take long-term medication based solely on the result of a blood test or other one-off health measure. Blood test results vary depending on what time the blood is drawn, whether you ate ahead of time, what you ate, and how long you slept. Blood pressure readings can vary in the same way. Additionally, MRIs, CT scans, and other imaging tests can be interpreted differently depending on who is reading them.

Request a new blood test or repeat the blood pressure readings, at a different time of the day or under different conditions. And ask other doctors to review your imaging results or the results of any reports that prompt you for treatment.

If you have to take the drug for years, can you wait to decide on it? You never know if a change in diet or some other non-drug remedy might work instead. For lifers, you usually don’t have to make a decision. High cholesterol, moderately high blood pressure, and weak bones, for example, are not emergencies.

What are the results of long-term studies for this drug? This is especially important for life-long drugs. By long term I mean the coveted 20-year study. In other words, as long as you hope to live on the medicine. Hard to find, but ask anyway.

If you are prescribed a medication for life or a medication for life, how might it interact with the medications you are likely to take in the future? For example, you may end up with drugs that lower high cholesterol, a prospect that increases with age. Ask if it is possible to make these kinds of projections now so that you can factor the future into your current decision making.

What would happen if you were to stop taking the medicine at some point? It is possible that after taking the medicine for years, you will develop intolerable side effects.

If a man takes testosterone supplements, for example, after a while his body comes to depend on the drug for its hormone supply and may stop producing its own. If he stops taking testosterone, he may be unable to produce his own, leaving him completely deprived of the male hormone.

Can I take an older version of a medication instead of the hot new medication? Older drugs are often the best choice. They have been used over a large population, sometimes millions of people and in everyday life, compared to a new drug that has probably only been tested in a few thousand and under strict conditions in a study that does not. not always reflect the diverse lifestyles and predispositions of the rest of the population, including you.

What experience have you had with prescribing this medicine to elderly people like me at the dose suggested to me? The doctor may prescribe something studied for patients who are much younger than you and who may not have the same health problems. If you have diabetes, for example, ask if any of the subjects in the drug studies also had it.

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Remember: when it comes to taking a prescription, it’s all up to you.

Janice M. Horowitz, author of “Health yourself“, is a former health reporter for Time magazine who created and hosted the public radio segment” Dueling Docs: The Cure to Contradictory Medicine. “She has also contributed to The Economist, Allure and The New York Times.

This article is reproduced with permission from NextAvenue.org, © 2021 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.

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