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For people with Down syndrome, family members, caregivers and professionals.

Questions to Ask When Prescribed a New Medication

September 2021 | Brian Chicoine, MD - Medical Director, Adult Down Syndrome Center

Are you a person with Down syndrome and you are being prescribed a new medication? Are you assisting a person with Down syndrome with their health care and the individual is being prescribed a new medication? What are some of the things that should be considered?

Some general questions to ask before starting a new medication include:

  1. What is the medication for?

  2. How should it be taken?

  3. When should I take the medication?

  4. How long should I take the medication?

  5. How should it be stored?

  6. Why this medication? Are there alternatives?

  7. How do I know if it's working?

  8. What side effects can I expect? What should I do if I experience them?

  9. What should I do if I miss a dose?

  10. Should I avoid anything while taking this medication?

A list with additional questions can be found in this article from Medline Plus opens in new window.


Are there questions that apply to people with Down syndrome in particular? Here are some additional considerations: 

Does the medication have anticholinergic side effects?

Some medications have anticholinergic properties as part of their function (anticholinergic medications) and others only have anticholinergic side effects. People with Down syndrome tend to be more sensitive to anticholinergic medications and side effects. They include constipation, difficulty urinating, dizziness, and others. More information on anticholinergic side effects is available in this GoodRx Health article opens in new window.

Does the medication lower blood pressure or pulse?

In general, people with Down syndrome tend to have lower blood pressures and pulses. Lowering them further can cause dizziness or passing out.

Is this medication being used for a psychiatric diagnosis and, if so, how will the dosing be done? 

A common recommendation for treating people with Down syndrome with medications for psychiatric diagnoses is to "start low and go slow." This approach helps avoid unnecessary side effects.

Do I have to take it in the morning?

Many people with Down syndrome have hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) and take levothyroxine (Synthroid) that must be taken on an empty stomach, usually first thing in the morning, at least 30 minutes before eating or drinking or taking other medications, vitamins, or supplements. 

Can the medication be chewed, crushed, or put in applesauce or a similar food?

Some people with Down syndrome have difficulty swallowing whole pills so it is important to know if one of the above strategies can be done or if it comes in a different formulation (such as liquid or chewable pill).

How many times a day does it need to be taken?

This can be an important question if school or work prevent taking a medication in the middle of the day.

Does it interact with anything I am already taking?

Many people with Down syndrome have co-occurring health conditions and are already on medications, supplements, vitamins, etc.

What effect will it have on sleep or sleep apnea?

Both irregular sleep and sleep apnea are more common in people with Down syndrome.

What is the potential effect of the medication on weight?

Overweight and obesity are more common in people with Down syndrome. To avoid weight gain, it may be reasonable to take a different medication if it also treats the condition that requires medication.

If a side effect occurs, is it likely to go away on its own?

Some side effects are common when a person first starts taking a medication but will resolve quickly. Being aware of those side effects and how long is reasonable to tolerate them before considering changing the medication is helpful to know before starting the medication.

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Please note: The information on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as a substitute for a medical, psychiatric, mental health, or behavioral evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment plan by a qualified professional. We recommend you review the educational material with your health providers regarding the specifics of your health care needs.