5 questions to ask your doctor when receiving a prescription

Many adverse drug reactions are entirely preventable. Patients in California may take a few simple steps to reduce the likelihood of suffering harm.

Modern medicine saves countless lives not just every year, but also every day. Many people in California are able to control chronic pain or keep infections at bay thanks to medications.

However, just because drugs are available and effective does not mean that we should fail to use caution when receiving a prescription. The sad truth is that people suffer an adverse drug reaction every day. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, these events lead to 100,000 hospitalizations annually.

Fortunately, many adverse reactions may be prevented. In a large number of cases, it is entirely on medical staff to ensure patient safety. There are some steps that patients themselves can take to decrease the chance of an incident. Here are five questions to ask a physician before taking a prescription drug:

1. What are the side effects?

Medications can cause any number of side effects, ranging from drowsiness to dizziness to nausea. It is imperative to know what these effects may be. For example, it is wise to avoid certain drugs before getting behind the wheel of a car. Knowing the possible side effects helps people prepare and also enables them to recognize when they are experiencing a symptom that is not common and should be reported.

2. Am I allergic?

A physician should always be aware of any drug allergies a patient has. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America states that medicines are actually the cause of most allergy-related deaths. Therefore, all allergies should be mentioned to a doctor, even if they seem like they may be irrelevant.

3. Will it affect my other medications?

The AHRQ notes that taking five or more medications is the standard for approximately one third of all adults in the United States. It is entirely possible that certain drugs will not react well with each other because they work in opposite ways in the body. It could be that one drug reduces the effect of another, or it increases another drug's potency. Either case could be very dangerous for the patient.

4. How do I take it?

Some pills must be taken with food, and some must be taken with a window of time in between meals. Some should be taken at night, some should be taken more than once a day. Just as important as it is to prescribe the right medicine is to know how to take it. Every patient should understand the dosage, timing and any other specifics associated with their medication.

5. What are the risks?

Every single medication, even the seemingly benign, has risks associated with it. This goes beyond simple side effects. Patients must be aware of potential hazards that are known to be associated with the drug. There are also medications that are known to be defective drugs and should be avoided at all costs.

When an adverse reaction occurs, it may be due to someone else's negligence. In California, patients are legally permitted to hold those parties responsible for their damages. People who have concerns about this issue should speak with a medical malpractice attorney.