1Raise cost concerns. Don’t hesitate to
discuss the cost of medicines with your
doctor. Unless you bring it up, your doctor
may assume that prescription cost is not a
factor for you.
2 Ask why. Always find out why he or she
is prescribing a drug. And ask if the drug
is FDA-approved for your condition or is
being prescribed “off-label,” meaning for a
purpose other than the ones for which the
FDA has certified that it is beneficial. If the
drug is being prescribed off-label, ask your
doctor about the evidence that shows it will
work in your case.
JUPITER IMAGES/POLKA DOT IMAGES
3 Pay little or no attention to drug ads.
Granted, the ads can be helpful in telling
you when a new medication comes on the
market. But don’t assume that just because
an ad sounds impressive that the drug is
really a huge advance over existing medications. Often, it’s not.
4Recognize free samples for what
they are. They are given to doctors by
drug companies primarily as a marketing
tool. But they may or may not be the best
choice for what ails you.
5Don’t buy generics from non-U.S.
Internet pharmacies. Brand-name
drugs are often less expensive on Canadian
and European-based sites. But generic drugs
are not usually any cheaper on such sites.
6 Watch for problems associated with
“poly-pharmacy.” About half of people
over 60 take two or more medicines, and 10
percent take seven or more. But drugs sometimes interact in dangerous ways. So if you
take three or more pills, schedule a “
medication review” with your doctor. And when you
fill a new prescription, ask your doctor and
your pharmacist if it interacts with any of
your existing medications.
7Be cautious about supplements, too.
Some supplements can also interact with
drugs, so ask about that possibility as well. In
fact, it’s a good idea to keep a list of all your
medicines and supplements so you don’t
have to rely on memory to recite them.
8 Ask your doctor about splitting pills.
We don’t mean to skimp on the dose! But
often it does save money to get a prescription
for pills that are twice the dose you need and
then cut them in half using a pill splitter.
9Remember that older [earlier genera-tion] drugs are often just as good. The
evidence is now convincing that many older
drugs available as low-cost generics are as
good as, or better than, the pricey new ones
coming on the market.
10 Know that drugs within a class or
group aren’t always that different.
Drug makers argue that each drug is unique
and that each person may respond differently
to it. That’s true, but it’s also true that in
some classes of medicines, there are several
drugs that achieve pretty much the same
results for most people. In other words, you
can substitute one for another.
11 Report any bad side effects immediately. Even the lengthy and detailed
tests that a drug must pass to reach the market do not always turn up all its problems.
Sometimes, adverse side effects are so rare or
so subtle that they don’t become obvious
until years later—sometimes after hundreds
of thousands of people have taken the drug.
So keep that in mind as you start taking any
new medication. If you have a bad side effect,
alert your doctor. You can also file a report
with the FDA under its Med Watch Adverse
Event Reporting System (go to
medwatch to find out how). There’s also a
special reporting system for problems with
htm for information on that program. C
Copyright 2009 by Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. Yonkers,
NY 10703-1057, a nonprofit organization. Reprinted with
permission from Consumer Reports Health for educational purposes only. No commercial use or reproduction
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