To be sure you remember all of the medicines you take, make a list at home before your appointment, or bring in the medicines themselves, preferably in their original containers (not a weekly pill organizer, for example). If you write out a list, make sure to write legibly, spell product names correctly, and note the doses you take, as well as how often you take them.
Ask questions. The more you know about your medicines, the better able you’ll be to use them correctly. So ask your health-care team any questions you may have about the medicines you already take, as well as medicines that have been recommended to you. Some examples of the types of questions to ask are listed in “Questions About Medicines”. If you don’t understand the answers you get, ask again. It may be helpful to repeat back what you’ve heard to the health-care provider to ensure that you got it right.
Find the facts. In addition to asking your health-care team about drugs and supplements, take advantage of the many consumer resources that provide this type of information. The librarian at your public library can direct you to books with consumer drug information, your pharmacist may have informational materials to give you, and numerous Internet sites provide reliable drug information. (For example, the US National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus Web site has information on drugs, herbs, and supplements: www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginformation.html.)
Your research may help to answer the questions you have about a particular medicine or help you to formulate questions to ask your health-care team.
Evaluate your choices. The research you do on your own, along with the discussions you have with your doctor, will help you and your team decide on the best medicine options for you. It’s important to consider both the helpful, desired effects of a medicine as well as the possible unwanted effects in making your treatment choices.
Read the label and follow directions. Reading the labels on your medicines is a way to double-check that you have the right medicine for the right person in the right amount. If the packaging or the medicine itself looks different from previous prescriptions of the same medicine (or containers of OTC medicines or supplements), check with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure you have the right product.
Follow the directions on the label for taking the medicine unless your doctor or pharmacist has told you to do otherwise. Let your team know about any unwanted side effects you experience, but don’t stop taking a prescribed medicine without speaking to a member of your health-care team first. (The one exception to this rule is if you develop a severe allergic reaction, in which case you should seek immediate emergency medical care.)
Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you are planning to take an OTC drug, dietary supplement, or vitamin. In some cases, such nonprescription products can interfere with the action of prescription medicines or cause them not to work as well.
Diabetes education and training
Because there’s so much to learn when you have diabetes, your doctor may refer you to group diabetes education classes or for one-on-one meetings with a diabetes educator. In either case, you will learn about — and have the opportunity to ask questions about — how to take your medicines, how to coordinate your medicines with your meals and other parts of your life, how to monitor your blood glucose level, what to do with the results, how to plan meals, and what to take into consideration when exercising with diabetes.
You can get the most out of these sessions by planning ahead the same way you would for any medical appointment: Write down any questions you want to ask, bring a notepad to jot down answers and other information, and consider bringing a friend or family member so the people who are close to you know how best to help and support you in your diabetes care. Many insurance plans cover a portion of the cost of diabetes education and training, as long as it is ordered by a doctor. Use this benefit to get the information you need.