5 Questions to Ask Your Doctor Before You Fill That Prescription

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1. Why am I getting this drug?

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Place the emphasis on the "I" when asking this question. Your doctor should consider your personal risk factors when prescribing a drug, not the previous patient he treated who may have been helped enormously by the medicine but also may have been far sicker to begin with. If you're considering a cholesterol-lowering statin, for instance, ask, "Has this drug been shown to prevent real clinical events like heart attacks or strokes in patients my age and gender with a cholesterol profile like mine?" says Jerry Avorn, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and author of Powerful Medicines. Ditto for bone-building drugs, which are being given more and more frequently to those with some bone loss, called osteopenia, but not full-blown osteoporosis. Ask, Avorn says, "Will this drug prevent fractures in those with bone measurements like I have?"

[More details on determining if you need drugs for bone loss.]

Next: 2. What are the risks versus the benefits?

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