What to ask your pharmacist

When you walk into a pharmacy, prescription in hand, what should you expect? As you watch all those people in white coats, do you feel intimidated?

Have you ever left a pharmacy wishing you had asked more questions?

We have prepared checklists for some of the most common scenarios to help you.


Five Questions to Ask About Your Medications

Five Questions to Ask About your Medications

pdf, 1.1mb


When picking up a new prescription

In addition to preparing your prescription, your pharmacist can answer many questions such as:

  • What is the name of the medication, and what is it supposed to do?
  • When and how do I take this medication?
    • Should I take it on an empty stomach or with food?
    • How much time before or after my meals is best to take it?
    • How often should I take it? how many hours apart should each dose be spaced?
    • What are the best times of day to take it?
    • Should I take it at the same time every day?
    • Do I take this drug on an as-needed basis or regularly?
  • Is there a generic version?
  • While taking it, should I avoid alcohol, any foods, activities or take special precautions?
  • How long should I take it? Are there any refills for it? If so, what do I need to do to get a refill?
  • When can I expect to see the benefits of this medication? What if it doesn’t seem to be working?
  • Does it contain anything that can cause an allergic reaction?
  • Should I expect any side effects? What are the most common ones and how can I manage them?
  • Can I stop taking it suddenly if I’m not tolerating it well?
  • Can I take non-prescription drugs, herbal medicines, or other drugs with this medication?
  • What if I forget to take it or take a dose incorrectly?
  • How should I store it? How long can I keep it? How should I dispose of it?

We've listed these questions in a handy checklist, with space for you to record the answers:


CHECKLIST: Picking up a new prescription

Download, print and take it with you to record the answers!

pdf, 335.3kb





If you are pregnant, planning to get pregnant or breastfeeding

While some medications are believed to have no effect on fetal development, some drugs may not be safe when taken by pregnant women.

"My pharmacist has been an excellent resource providing me with detailed information and high quality advice on the medications I needed to take during my pregnancy.  I trust his judgment because he has taken the time to ask me important questions; get to know me, my medical history and my needs as his patient."

Jennifer, Regina

As the drug expert on your healthcare team, your pharmacist will be able to determine which of your medications are deemed safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and will work with your physician to weigh the risks and benefits of medication therapy.

  • If I get pregnant while on this medication, what should I do?
  • If you are taking medications while breastfeeding, what side effects should you watch out for in the baby?

Do your best to answers to the following questions for your pharmacist:

If pregnant

  • What trimester are you in? Some drugs are not safe to take in certain trimesters.
  • Have there been any complications from your pregnancy such as diabetes and blood pressure changes? Some drugs may make these conditions worse. 
  • Which prenatal vitamins are you currently taking? Your nutritional requirements may increase during pregnancy and your pharmacist can help determine the best supplement for you.  

If breastfeeding

  • How often do you breastfeed throughout the day? Some drugs can be dosed around breastfeeding times.   



If you want to stock your medicine cabinet

  • What basic items should be stored in a well-stocked medicine cabinet?
    • to treat cuts and scrapes
    • in case of poisoning
    • for basic first aid
    • for flu season
    • for sun exposure

Check out our Tips for a well-stocked medicine cabinet.



When buying over-the-counter medication

These are some of the questions that your pharmacist can answer. 

  • What is this medicine for?
  • What is the active ingredient? What else does it have in it?
  • Is it OK for children?
  • Is it OK for people with XYZ condition?
  • Is there a generic brand with the same active ingredient?
  • Can I have the information leaflet for it?
  • How does this medicine work?
  • What can I expect to happen?
  • Will I feel any different?
  • How long will it take to work?
  • How should I use this medicine?
  • How much should I take? And, at what times of the day?
  • How long do I need to take it for?
  • How should I store this medicine?
  • What should I do if I forget to take a dose?
  • What about side effects?
  • What should I do if I get a side effect?
  • Are there any medicines I should not take at the same time as this one?
  • Are there any special instructions?
  • How do I use this device (eg, a puffer or spacer)?
  • I have trouble swallowing tablets? What can I do?
  • I can’t get the lid off the bottle. What can I do?

Check out our Tips for taking over-the-counter medication(s).



Can I ask my pharmacist about over-the-counter drugs? What about supplements and herbal remedies?


Please talk to your pharmacist. Take advantage of your pharmacist's knowledge about non-prescription drugs and alternative therapies.

On how to properly administer

Your medicine can only work correctly if it is administered properly in the body. Your pharmacist can help you with how to use:

  • Ear Drops
  • Eye Drops 
  • Eye Ointments and Gels
  • Liquid Medications
  • Metered-Dose Inhalers
  • Nasal Pump Sprays
  • Nasal Sprays
  • Nose Drops
  • Suppositories
  • Transdermal Patches
  • Vaginal Tablets, Suppositories, and Creams



After you have the medication and before you leave the pharmacy

Be sure that:

  • You have the right medicine. If you've bought the medicine before, make sure this medicine has the same shape, color, size, markings, and packaging. Anything different? Ask your pharmacist. If it seems different when you use it, tell your pharmacist, doctor, or other healthcare professional.
  • You know the right dose for the medicine and you know how to use it. Any questions? Ask your pharmacist.
  • There is a measuring spoon, cup, or syringe for liquid medicine. If the medicine doesn't come with a special measuring tool, ask your pharmacist about one. Spoons used for eating and cooking may give the wrong dose.
  • You have any information the pharmacist can give you about the medicine. Read it and save it.
  • You get the pharmacy phone number, so you can call should you need to.



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