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 Lipitor 10mg in the glove compartment of my car?

Actually, the glove compartment is generally not recommended for storing your medications because the glove compartment in your car can get very hot and cold. Lipitor. (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 Zestril (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 try 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 19 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 at least four to nine months after the depressive symptoms have improved.
  • Those with chronic depression, or repeated bouts of depression, may need to stay on medication 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 currently take an OTC formulation for weight loss that contains ephedra and I heard it was being taken off the market. Should I stock up on it before it gets removed, or is it really not safe to use?

You heard correctly! The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has made the ruling to take all products containing ephedra off the market stating that these products present "unreasonable risk of illness and injury". Ephedra affects your body by stressing your circulatory system and raising your blood pressure. It has been associated with heart ailments and even stroke. Because of the risk, we do not recommend the use of any products that contain ephedra. "Stocking up" may be dangerous. Successful weight loss is best achieved with a healthy diet and regular exercise. Be sure to talk with your Doctor about any organization in your community that can help you achieve your weight loss goals. Your health plan may also have additional information on weight loss, so it may be beneficial to check out their web site.

I was recently prescribed the antibiotic amoxicillin. Will it affect my birth control pill?

I applaud you for taking the responsibility to ask! The antibiotic, amoxicillin, is in the penicillin class of antibiotics. Many antibiotics, especially those in the penicillin and tetracycline class, can reduce the effectiveness of birth control pills. Rifampin, an antibiotic, and Griseofulvin, an antifungal, can also reduce the effects of your oral contraceptive (increases risk for pregnancy). Many seizure medications such as Dilantin., Tegretol., and Topamax. can affect the birth control pill.

Here are some general tips to keep in mind whenever starting a new therapy while on the birth control pill:

  • Always check with your pharmacist to ensure the medication you have been prescribed does not interact with your birth control pill.
  • While on any of the above medications, women on birth control pills containing estrogen should use an additional type of birth control (such as condoms)
  • It is very important to consult with your Doctor about any questions and concerns you may have.

I am currently taking Lipitor (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:
  • I would recommend drinking only one small cup (6-8oz.) of grapefruit juice no more than once daily.
  • Since the drug-interaction persists for at least 12 hours, try to separate the grapefruit juice at least 12 hours apart from the medication dose.
  • Consuming large amounts or 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: Mevacor. (lovastatin), Zocor. (simvastatin) and Lescol. (fluvastatin).

My Doctor told me he wanted to switch me over to generic Prozac., which he called fluoxetine. Can you explain the difference between brand vs. generic?

When a new drug is developed, scientists give it a generic name. Once the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approves the drug, the manufacturer markets it with a brand or trade name, which is usually easier and shorter to remember. A drug company can hold exclusive patent rights to make a drug for as long as 17 years after its discovery. After that, other companies can start making generic versions of the drug. In your case, Prozac. is the brand name and fluoxetine is the generic name. In most cases, generics often cost considerably less and work as well as the brand name. Since the release of fluoxetine in 2001, millions of patients have switched over to the generic.

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) assures that generic drugs are:

  • Safe, effective, and FDA approved
  • An affordable alternative
  • Can be used with confidence

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 is a major health concern that affects over 25 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, ice cream, and broccoli are just a few "calcium-rich" foods. (Be careful of calories!)
  • A few drug-interactions exist with calcium. Be sure to always ask you 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, are there any over-the-counter medications used for sleep that I could try first?

Yes, there are OTC sleep-aids available. While these medications are marketed under a variety of names such as Nytol., Sominex., and Unisom., they all contain (25-50 mg) of either of two antihistamines, diphenhydramine or doxylamine. These drugs block the effects of brain proteins called histamine receptors and cause sleepiness as a side effect. Since these drugs stay in your body for about 10 hours, they might cause impaired thinking and drowsiness in the morning. Other potential side effects of antihistamines include dry mouth, blurred vision, headache, nausea, and increased heartbeat.

The following are FDA's (Food and Drug Administration) tips on taking medications, including over-the-counter medications:

  • Talk to your pharmacist or doctor before using an over-the-counter medicine the first time, especially if you use other medicine.
  • 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! High blood pressure, or "hypertension", affects 1 out of 4 American adults. 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 you 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 Systolic(mmHg) Diastolic(mmHg)
HIGH blood pressure* 140 or Greater 90 or Greater
Pre-hypertension 120-139 80-89
Normal Less than 119 Less than 79

*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 10-01-2019.