As A Doctor, Here Are 3 Questions I Recommend You Ask About Newly Prescribed Medication
A pharmacist approved cheat sheet.
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You were sitting at the clinic exam room and your heart was pounding as the doctor was spitting out all of his medical jargon. After their long "Grey’s Anatomy"case explanation, they finally say that they are prescribing a drug to help you feel better and asks you if you have any questions. Keep calm and whoosah, you told yourself. You want to ask questions, but you don’t know what to ask or you don’t want to feel stupid asking “dumb questions.”
Here is a pharmacist approved cheat sheet about what questions you should absolutely ask before walking out of any prescriber's office with a prescription in your hand.
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1. What are the contraindications for this drug?
Contraindications are the absolute reasons you should never take a drug. Sometimes your doctor may forget to take this into consideration, and asking this question could completely change your course of therapy. For example, a doctor may want to prescribe a penicillin-like antibiotic, but may not have your penicillin allergy in their electronic health record (EHR). Asking this question will allow them to disclose this risk and give you an opportunity to let them know about your history with penicillin, causing them to choose a safer group of drugs.
2. How common are the side effects?
Side effects are the adverse effects that occur after taking a medication. These are those fast random scary words that spit at the end of every drug commercial and sound like someone is trying to be like Busta Rhymes in “Look at Me Know.” These side effects are discovered in clinical studies and it’s possible that only a small percentage (e.g. 5 to 10%) of studied patients actually experienced them. For a drug with a side effect percentage of 5%, this means that for every 100 people who were studied, around 5 of those patients experienced said side effect. In medicine, we are truly worried about the side-effects that occur in more than 20% of studied patients. Knowing the specific percentage of side effects will let you know which ones you are likely to experience and be wary of.
3. What does published data say about how this medication works in Black/African Americans?
All FDA approved prescription drugs must undergo various clinical studies before they are released to the public. Unfortunately, due to various clinical study f**k-ups like the “Tuskegee Syphilis Study,” many of us African Americans do not participate in clinical studies. We currently make up 13% of the U.S. population, and of that we make up around 14% of patients in all clinical trials. Therefore, data is limited about how effective most drugs are in our beautiful Nubian bodies. However, some drugs actually have some studies that have shown that certain drugs work better in African Americans. For example, high blood pressure studies show that certain drugs like calcium-channel blockers (e.g. amlodipine) work better than other drug classes (e.g. ACE Inhibitors) in African Americans — making them the better choice for us in most cases. Asking this question will put your doctor on the spot, but it will let you know how other African Americans have fared while taking this drug.