These days, when a full 61 percent of adults use at least one medication to treat a chronic health problem, many people expect a prescription at every doctor’s appointment. (And doctors are often all too happy to oblige.) Since every drug has side effects and may interact with other meds, though, you shouldn’t just swallow any pill ordered without a second thought. First ask:
Why am I getting this drug? Place the emphasis on the “I.” Your doctor should consider your personal risk factors when prescribing a drug, not the experience of the patient he/she treated earlier who may have been helped enormously, but also may have been far sicker.
What are the risks vs. the benefits? Your doctor should be able to tick off the side effects and any serious adverse effects of any drug he/she is prescribing. You should also have a clear understanding of the benefits. Even in severe cases of depression, antidepressants significantly help just one-third of patients, mildly help another third, and don’t do much good for the remaining third. This information isn’t featured prominently on manufacturers’ websites.
Is there an older drug or a lifestyle change that works just as well? With a new medication, “We might not know its long-term benefits or its track record for risks,” explains Lisa Schwartz, an associate professor of medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice. “It’s one thing if there’s no other treatment available for your condition, but it’s quite another if there are a lot of other treatments that have stood the test of time.”