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When You Have Medication-Related Questions

by Edward Leigh, Patient Communications Expert
October 09, 2015

Question: I try to accompany my aging mother for her doctor's appointments but sometimes I can't do so. Often, there are questions related to the medication. But I can't seem to get a hold of the doctor when I call. Who is the next best person to talk to in such matters?

Answer: Thank you for writing.  

The first item I would suggest is developing a list of all your mother’s medications. For each medication include the name, dosage (e.g., 10 mg.) and how often the medication is taken (e.g., two times per day). Be sure to include the reason for the medication (e.g., diabetes). Also include on your list whether the medication is brand or generic. A brand medication still has an active patent, which means only one company can produce it and it has a specific appearance. After the patent expires the medication becomes generic, then other companies can start producing the drug, but there is one very important point! Each generic company must have a distinct look to the drug, which means the same drug could look very different based on the manufacturer.

If your mother sees multiple doctors, the situation becomes more complicated. If all your mother’s doctors are in a single healthcare system, they will have all the medications in their system. However, if your mother sees various doctors from various systems, then you need to keep track of the medications in your list. You will need to let the doctors know all the medications; this is vital since there could be serious drug interactions.

If you have medication questions and the doctor is unavailable, call the pharmacist. Pharmacists know medications better than anyone since that is their area of expertise. If your mother is not getting all her medications from one pharmacist, be sure to let the pharmacist you are speaking with know all the medications your mother is taking to avoid serious drug interactions. While taking care of my mother, I went to the pharmacist first for medication questions.  

Good luck to you.

Edward Leigh, MA, focuses on helping patients and healthcare professionals effectively communicate with each other. Excellent communication skills dramatically enhance patient satisfaction and safety. He presents high-energy and informative programs for hospitals, healthcare associations, medical practices, government organizations and universities. He is also an in-demand consultant and coach. He has a master’s degree in health education.

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