Patient Empowerment and Patient Rights:
Research Tips and Best Web Site Resources

To be healthy, you have to take charge of your health care. Here are some tips for making informed treatment decisions. If you are weighing the pros and cons of taking a drug, consider doing the following:

Research your Condition and Drug Treatment

1-Discuss the benefits and the potential side effects with the doctor who is prescribing the drug to you  For example, ask your doctor why he or she thinks this particular drug will work for you. Why this brand? Why this dosage?
2- Research the drug on your own. Here are some ways to do that:

  1. Find out more about the drug from MedlinePlus at the National Library of Medicine.
  2. Read consumer reviews on and keep an open attitude, as everyone’s body chemistry is different; what works for some may not work for all. See how the drug has fared for others in your age group or have used it for the same reasons that you are using it. You can do this using the ‘advanced search’ feature.
  3. Review "FDA Adverse Event Reports" or "Review Summaries" at the top of most of the drug information pages.
  4. Find out when the drug was first approved at [email protected] database . Was it approved recently or has it been around for a long time?
  5. Research the drug through a search of the medical literature; you can do this at PubMed or Google Scholar.
  6. If you have a pill in your medicine cabinet and need to identify it, you can do a visual search or an imprint code search at 
  7. Look at sites that profile controversial drugs, such as
  8. Look at other sites that provide prescription drug information. AskaPatient's Drug Resources page describes many of them.

3-If you and your doctor agree that you should take the drug, read the information provided by the drug manufacturer that is provided with the prescription. Take it as prescribed, noticing any side effects or benefits you are experiencing, and how far into the medicine regimen the side effects started to occur.

4-  Share your experience with your doctor, especially if you have negative side effects. Is it working? Great! Report your success to your doctor and at
If side effects are particularly severe, you may be suffering from an “adverse event”.  Please report these to the FDA using their Medwatch program. 

5-If you have the time, share your experience with others on the Ask a Patient web site.

6- If you are a senior or are taking care of a older patient, consider finding or becoming an elder advocate.

These sites include information for the empowered patient:

Your Advocate: Public Citizen's Health Research Group: Health & Safety Initiatives
Public Citizen advocates for stronger physician accountability; safer, more effective drugs, medical devices and dietary supplements; and equitable health care.

Medical Record Privacy From EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center) news and discussion of such topics as national identification numbers, safegaurding DNA and your genetic data, legislation, and research.

NY State Dept. of Health Provides a useful brochure on your rights as a patient.

Consumer Health Resources List Links from Public Citizen.

Women's Health Care Rights: National Women's Health Network