You and your family can help your doctor find the right medications for you. The doctor needs to know your medical history, other medications being taken, and life plans such as hoping to have a baby. After taking the medication for a short time, you should tell the doctor about favorable results as well as side effects.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and professional organizations recommend that the patient or a family member ask the following questions when a medication is prescribed. Print this page out and take it in with you to your doctor.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

  • What is the name of the medication, and what is it supposed to do?
  • How long before you expect to see results?
  • What kind of track record in terms of effectiveness does this medication have?
  • What are the primary short-term side effects of this medication?
  • Does this medication have any long-term side effects that I should be aware of, such as diabetes, sexual side effects, or weight gain?
  • Are there ways to minimize these side effects?
  • How and when do I take it, and when do I stop taking it?
  • What foods, drinks, or other medications should I avoid while taking the prescribed medication?
  • Should it be taken with food or on an empty stomach?
  • Is it safe to drink alcohol while on this medication?
  • How do you monitor this medication? Are there specific tests you run to help monitor this medication?
  • What are you prescribing this particular medication over a similar medication?
  • How will we know when it’s time to stop taking this medication, or if the dose will need to be changed?
  • Is it safe for me to continue taking aspirin, Advil, vitamin and/or herbal supplements when taking this medication? Is there something specific I should avoid?
  • Is a generic version of this medication available?
  • What should I do if I miss a dose of this medication? Take it immediately when I remember, or wait until my next regularly scheduled dose?

You shouldn’t take it for granted that the doctor will know that you are on other medications — even prescribed by the same doctor’s office or hospital. Clearly let your doctor know what other medications you’re actively taking. And if you’ve been prescribed a medication but stopped taking it, let your doctor know that too.

Some people forget to mention other kinds of substances that may also impact a medication’s use or effectiveness. Make sure that you mention any supplements, herbs, vitamins, or other alternative treatments that you may be actively using, no matter how innocuous they may seem. For instance, some vitamins and supplements have known negative interactions with certain medications. Fully disclose everything you’re taking when you see your doctor.

Patients do best when they speak up when talking to a doctor, and clearly ask questions or express their concerns. Too many people walk out of a doctor’s office and think, “Why didn’t I ask her that?” Some people find it helpful to write down their questions before a doctor’s visit, in order to not forget to ask any questions that they may have. This is a common, helpful practice and doctors are open to answering your questions when they see you — so ask!

Remember, the time to ask a doctor a question is when you see them. It is too late to ask once the appointment is over (although with email and other ways of contacting the doctor’s office, you can always followup with additional questions more easily later on today than was possible in the past).