5 Questions to Ask Your Doctor Before You Fill That Prescription

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2. What are the risks versus the benefits?

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(Anastasiya Maksymenko/iStockphoto)

Your doctor should be able to tick off the side effects of any drug she's prescribing as well as serious adverse events associated with the drug and how commonly those occur, says Lisa Schwartz, an associate professor of medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice. You should also have a clear understanding of the benefits. Even in severe cases of depression, antidepressants significantly help one third of patients who take them, mildly help another third, and don't do much good for an additional third—information that has become known in research studies but isn't featured prominently on manufacturer's websites. [What to do if antidepressants don't work.] Schwartz and her colleagues at Dartmouth/VA Outcomes Group would like the Food and Drug Administration to begin offering consumer-friendly information on the risks and benefits of every drug it approves and are working with the agency to develop drug graphics like this one for Lunesta.

Next: 3. Is there an older drug or a lifestyle alteration that works just as well?


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