Get to Know Your Meds: Questions to Ask at Your Next Appointment

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When you have type 2 diabetes it is likely that you will be taking a variety of medication-perhaps up to four for your diabetes and then a couple more for your blood pressure and another one or two for your cholesterol levels.  With any medications you may take for other medical conditions this can add up to eight to ten medications every day.

As we know, all medications have side effects and many medications can interact with either other drugs or the foods that we eat. That makes it all the more important that you both understand why you are taking the drugs you are prescribed and how they work.  Yet many patients, especially older patients, have no idea about the basic facts regarding their medications; some people can’t even name the pills they take each day.

“Having a conversation with your physician or other health care provider about your medications is important. Understanding their role in your treatment plan makes you a better patient and helps make the time you spend with your physician more productive,” says Nora Saul, M.S., R.D., C.D.E., Manager of Nutritional Services at Joslin.

Below is a list of questions to ask your physician during your next visit.

Let’s start with the simple stuff:

  • Drug name: generic and brand name, dose and frequency. This sounds straight forward but if you are taking multiple medications it is easy to get confused.
  • What’s in it for me? Or why am I taking this medication, what is it supposed to do and how will I know that it is working? And something else that patients hardly ever ask but have a right to know- Why did you choose this medication for me over all the other similar ones on the market?
  • What are the side effects?  Ask about the common ones and the not so common ones. What side effects should I be concerned enough about to call the office, and which are likely to fade or dissipate with time (the ones that might be bothersome but not critical)?
  • What should I do if I can’t tolerate the side effects even if they are only the bothersome kind?

Once you know the basics it is time to discuss your meds in more depth.

  • Will this medication interact with any of the other medications that I take?  Do I need to avoid any foods or limit my alcohol intake with this medication?
  • Will I be able to stop this medication at some point or do you see me taking it for the long haul?
  • How much will this medication cost me? Who should I ask about this if you don’t know? Is there a less expensive one if I can’t afford this one?

Oh, and take a pen and paper or an electronic noting device with you.  It isn’t easy committing all of this to memory and you shouldn’t have to.  Having it available when another medication is added to your list will make your discussion with your healthcare provider that much more fruitful.

Do you need help managing your diabetes? Learn more about the Adult Clinic at Joslin Diabetes Center.

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