Questions to Ask When Starting New Pain Medicine

Research shows that patients who have good communication with their health care team are more satisfied with their medical care than patients who do not. They are also more likely to take their medicines as directed by their doctor. It always helps to have someone with you, if possible, when you talk with your doctor. They can listen and take notes. When starting any new medication, here are some questions you may want to ask your health care team, especially your pharmacists:

How should I take my medication? Always check if your medication should be taken with food or on an empty stomach. Some pills may need to be taken with a certain amount of liquid, or they may work better if taken at a specific time of day. Asking these questions will help you get the most from your treatment. It can also help open the lines of communication with your health care team.

What are the possible side effects? All medicines can cause side effects. Sometimes, side effects keep people from taking their medicine as directed. Ask your doctor or health care team about what physical or emotional changes may occur during treatment. Asking about side effects before they happen will help you prepare for them. You and your doctor may be able to find ways for you to avoid or reduce any side effects. Also, ask if there are any side effects that you should call your doctor or health care team about.

What should I do if I miss a dose? Many people forget to take a dose of their medicine at some point. Ask your doctor what you should do if you miss a dose. Make a note of what to do in a diary or journal. Try to know ahead of time what to do, rather than trying to reach someone after missing your dose. It is always better to ask your doctor or health care team than to guess at what to do next.

What does my insurance cover? An insurer may require that a generic (or biosimilar) version of the drug be dispensed, if one exists. Your pharmacist can help you determine if this is the case, and explain any differences between the original drug and the covered drug, including any out-of-pocket cost implications.

How much will my medication cost? While you are at the doctor’s office, ask about the medicine’s cost. Your health care team may be able to give you more information about your insurance and what medicines it covers. If you cannot afford your medicine, ask about financial help for people with cancer. Many drug companies have programs that provide their medicines for free or at low-cost to patients who qualify. CancerCare and other organizations also offer patient programs to help with co-payment costs of some medicines (see Resources section).

What if I cannot remember how to take my new medication? Although everything may seem clear in the doctor’s office, you might not remember some of the details later when you start taking your medicine. Ask any questions you have while you are with your doctor. Write down the answers, or ask your doctor or someone else to write them down for you. If you forget to ask a question when meeting with your doctor, you can also ask the other members of your health care team. Your nurse or pharmacist may be able to help.