Ask A Pharmacist

Our clinical pharmacists are experienced in answering medication-related questions from members and their physicians.

Important! If you have a question about your drug benefits or coverage please contact Customer Service. This information is not intended to be used in place of medical advice from a doctor. Never change your treatment or medication regimen without first consulting your doctor.

Ask a Medication Related QuestionOpens a form

All questions are answered by a licensed, clinical pharmacist. While we make every effort to answer your question as soon as possible, please allow 3 business days for a response.

Read Answers to Commonly Asked Medication Questions

Due to my job, I spend a lot of time traveling in my car. Is it safe to store my atorvastatin 10mg in the glove compartment of my car?

The glove compartment is not recommended for storing your medications because the glove compartment in your car can get very hot and cold. Atorvastatin 10mg should be stored at controlled room temperature (20-25C) or (68-77F).

Here are some general tips for storing your medications:

  1. Avoid storing your medication in places where it is either very hot or very cold. Heat could melt a specific medication while very cold temperatures could freeze the medication or cause a tablet to become brittle (easier to break or chip). It's also not advisable to store your medications in your bathroom medicine cabinet because of the humidity and steam found in most bathrooms. Avoid exposing your medications to excessive sun or light.
  2. Store your medication in a place that is not accessible to children. Many medications can cause accidental poisoning if large amounts are consumed.

I usually take my lisinopril once daily in the morning. I was in such a rush this morning and forgot to take it. Can I take it after work at 4:00 PM when I get home or should I wait until tomorrow?

In this particular case with this particular medication, you can take it at 4:00 PM.

Here are some general tips on what to do if you miss a dose of your medication:

  • The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) recommends as a guideline, to estimate the number of hours between when you should have taken your missed dose and when your next dose is scheduled if you take it twice a day, for instance, the time between doses is 12 hours. If you have passed the halfway point (which is six hours in this example), do not take the missed dose. Instead, continue with your next regularly scheduled dose.
  • With most medications, the FDA recommends that if you miss a dose, you can take it when you remember that day. However, never "double up" (take two doses at one time) unless directed by your Doctor or Pharmacist.
  • Since every medication is different, it is a good idea to talk with your Doctor or Pharmacist about what to do if you should miss a dose.

I was recently diagnosed with depression and I would like to know how many Americans suffer from this disease. Am I alone? Am I going to have to take my medication forever?

You are definitely not alone! Every year, more than 17 million American adults suffer from clinical depression. Anyone can experience depression and it is important to know that clinical depression is a very treatable medical illness. Treatment for clinical depression has proven to be very effective.

Here are some tips the National Mental Health Association (NMHA) has provided for treating and coping with your depression:

  • Depending on what medication you were prescribed, it may take up to 6-8 weeks before you notice an improvement.
  • It is usually recommended that medications be taken for up to one year after you feel better.
  • Those with chronic depression, or repeated bouts of depression, may need to stay on medication long term to prevent or lessen further episodes.
  • Seek support from your family and friends because you do not have to cope with this on your own.
  • As with any medications, side effects may occur. Make sure you are under the supervision of a doctor or other qualified mental health professional to ensure the best treatment with the fewest side effects.

I am currently taking atorvastatin for cholesterol and the yellow sticker on my prescription vial states "to avoid drinking grapefruit juice". Since this is my favorite juice, I was wondering if one glass every morning is really going to affect my medication?

Grapefruit juice in combination with Lipitor (atorvastatin) was found to increase the level of Lipitor in your body. Increased amounts of Lipitor in your body might lead to increased risk of myopathy (muscle pain) or rhabdomyolysis (muscle deterioration), a more serious condition.

If you choose to drink grapefruit juice, here are some general suggestions to minimize the risk:
  • Drink one small cup (6-8oz.) of grapefruit juice no more than once daily.
  • Since the drug-interaction persists for at least 12 hours, separate the grapefruit juice at least 12 hours apart from the medication dose.
  • Consuming large amounts of grapefruit juice is not recommended due to this drug interaction.

The following are the other medications used to treat cholesterol that have a drug-interaction with grapefruit juice: lovastatin, simvastatin, and fluvastatin.

What is the difference between a brand drug and a generic drug?
When the FDA approves a drug, the manufacturer markets it with a brand or trade name. A drug company can hold exclusive rights for as long as 20 years from when the patent is filed with the FDA. When the patent expires, other companies can make generic versions of the brand drug.  

Generic drugs go through a rigorous FDA approval process to ensure it is as safe and effective as its brand name counterpart. A brand name drug and generic drug have the same active ingredient, strength, safety, effectiveness, quality, and benefits.

There can be some differences in how the drug looks but this does not impact how it works. For example, a generic drug may be a different size, shape, or color than the brand name drug.

Generic drugs tend to cost less than brand name drugs. 

It is estimated that nearly 9 in 10 prescriptions filled in the United States are for generic drugs.

Learn more about generic drugs and check out our Tier 1 generic drug listOpen a PDF

Lately, I have seen and heard so much about taking Calcium. I am a 57 year old female and a few of my friends have already been taking it for years. Is there really any benefit to taking Calcium?

Calcium is an essential nutrient your body needs every day. It helps build and MAINTAIN healthy teeth and bones in addition to keeping your heart beating steadily and your muscles and nerves in great condition. Because your bones are made from calcium, if you do not get enough from your daily diet, your body will "steal" the calcium from your bones to compensate for the difference. After some time, your bone strength will be reduced and may lead to osteoporosis, a crippling disease associated with thin and weak bones. Osteoporosis and low bone mass affect almost 54 million Americans. In fact, being a female already puts you at a higher risk for developing osteoporosis. Regular exercise and a healthy diet with enough calcium can help maintain bone health and may reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis. The general U.S. population needs to consume (1,000-1,500 mg) of elemental calcium daily.

Here are some general tips about calcium:

  • You can obtain calcium from the foods you eat. Yogurt, cheese, milk, and broccoli are just a few "calcium-rich" foods.
  • A few drug-interactions exist with calcium. Always ask your Doctor or Pharmacist before starting any new therapy.
  • There are many forms of calcium that are currently available (carbonate, citrate, coral calcium, etc). Ask your Doctor or Pharmacist to help you find one that is right for you.
  • Side effects with supplemental calcium include constipation and gas.

I am having trouble sleeping at night. Since Doctor visits and prescription medications can be quite costly, do you have any suggestions?

Before starting an over-the-counter (OTC) medication for sleep it is important to determine what is causing your difficulty sleeping. Keeping track of your sleep patterns may be a good place to start. It is also important to practice good sleep habits (called sleep hygiene). A few examples include:

  • Maintaining a regular sleep schedule.
  • Avoiding sleep disrupters such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol close to bedtime.
  • Limiting daytime napping to 30 minutes.
  • Getting regular exercise but avoid exercise late in the evening close to bedtime.
  • Avoiding large meals before bedtime.
  • Avoiding bright lights from devices such as phones, TV, computers, etc. before bed.
  • Making your bedroom quiet and comfortable.

If you are still having difficulty despite good sleep habits, here are some important considerations before starting any OTC medications:

  • Always consult with your Doctor or Pharmacist before starting any over-the-counter medication because no medicine is without risk. Besides benefits, medicines may cause side effects or allergic reactions, and they may be affected by interactions with foods and drinks.
  • Write down any problems that you have with the medicine so you can discuss them with your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Contact the doctor or pharmacist if new or unexpected symptoms or other problems appear.

I always take my blood pressure when I am waiting for my prescriptions at the pharmacy. I never know what the two numbers mean. Can you give me some guidelines to follow so I know that my medication is working?

It is great to hear that you are seeking an interest in your blood pressure! According to the American Heart Association, high blood pressure, or hypertension affects 108 million Americans. This is almost half of our population! High blood pressure occurs when the force of blood against your artery walls is too strong. Since hypertension does not cause symptoms unless it is very high, taking and recording your blood pressure on a regular basis is often recommended. Your blood pressure measurement consists of two numbers: systolic and diastolic. The systolic measurement, or the "top number", is the pressure of blood against your artery walls when the heart has just finished pumping. The diastolic measurement, or the "bottom number", is the pressure of blood against your artery walls between heartbeats, when the heart is relaxed and filling with blood.

Below are the Joint National Commission (JNC) new guidelines for Hypertension:

Blood Pressure Category Systolic Blood Pressure Diastolic Blood Pressure
Normal Less than 120 mm Hg Less than 80 mm Hg
Elevated 120-129 mm Hg Less than 80 mm Hg
HYPERTENSION
Stage 1 130-139 mm Hg

80-89 mm Hg

Stage 2 140 mm Hg or greater 90 mm Hg or greater

*Every patient is different so it is a good idea to keep a record of your blood pressures so you can further discuss them with your Doctor.

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This page last updated 10-01-2020.