3 questions to ask a doctor about the drugs you take

Consumer Reports' public service campaign aims to help you better understand your medications

Published: February 11, 2015 06:00 AM

When it comes to the doctor-patient relationship, the biggest consumer gripes include mountains of paperwork, long waiting times, and inconvenient office hours. But the top complaint is doctors who give unclear explanations. To help address this, Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs has a few tips on navigating the doctor-patient relationship and encouraging consumers to ask smart questions.

Don't want to sound like you're questioning your doctor? Believe it or not, doctors want to hear from you. "Patients worry their questions might be interpreted as second-guessing. But we want our patients to be informed so they can make sure they can follow their medication instructions as well as understand the risks and benefits of taking the drug," says Orly Avitzur, M.D.,Consumer Reports' medical adviser and a neurologist who practices in New York.         

To help you ask the right questions, we've started a public service campaign. Our focus is the complex process of prescribing a new drug. Our national telephone polls of people who regularly take medication show that one out of every five people who've started a new prescription say they didn't talk with their doctor about its possible side effects. However, you should feel comfortable asking your doctor questions about your health and treatments.

With that in mind, we encourage you to ask these three questions when your doctor is about to write you a new prescription:

  1. Why should I take this drug?
  2. Are there any side effects?
  3. Is there a generic form of this drug?

It's important to ask these key questions because a decision about a new medication can have long-lasting implications. Drugs to treat many common conditions—such as hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol—are often prescribed long term, and maybe for the rest of your life. 

Watch our short video here in English or Spanish.

Editor's Note:

This article and related materials are made possible by a grant from the state Attorney General Consumer and Prescriber Education Grant Program, which is funded by the multistate settlement of consumer-fraud claims regarding the marketing of the prescription drug Neurontin (gabapentin).

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