USING MEDICINES SAFELY

Despite advances in medical knowledge and technology, an increased number of adverse health conditions often come with age. Tracking appointments with specialists and all of the medicines prescribed to treat health conditions can be taxing, at best.

Worse, mistakes in taking medicines can be costly, especially as more Americans are combining over-the-counter medicines and supplements with prescription drugs.

However, asking the right questions and proceeding cautiously can help ensure that medicines provide their full benefit, can help prevent the risk of taking the medicines incorrectly, and can help prevent an adverse reaction with other medicines.

When a medicine is prescribed, a patient should ask his or her doctor for basic information, such as the name of the medicine, the purpose of the medicine, and how the medicine should be taken.

The doctor should explain not only the proper dosage and timing of the medicine, but also whether the medicine should or should not be taken with meals, whether the medicine should be taken at a specific time of day, and what the patient should do if a dose is missed.

The patient should remind the doctor of any allergies or previous problems with medicines and of the medicines the patient is currently taking, including over-the-counter medicines, as well as vitamin, mineral, and herbal supplements.

This will help the doctor avoid dangerous or bothersome side effects and interactions.

Finally, the patient should ask the doctor how the patient will know if the medicine is working and what side effects should be reported to the doctor.

When a prescription is filled at a pharmacy, a patient should always make sure that he or she is able to read the directions on the label, including any warnings, and that he or she understands how to take the medicine properly.

The pharmacist can answer any questions and can provide valuable advice about potential interactions of medicines and over-the-counter drugs.

The patient should read the detailed information that accompanies the prescription and keep it for later reference.

At home, a patient should keep a detailed list of the medicines he or she is taking, including their names, dosages, times taken, and prescribing physicians. As medicines are added or removed from a patient’s course of treatment, this list should be updated.

A medicine should be taken exactly as prescribed until it is gone, if it is a limited course, or until the doctor takes the patient off of the medicine.

Patients should report serious side effects or drug interactions to their doctors. Patients should not take expired medicines or medicines prescribed for another person.