Using Medicines Appropriately

Whenever possible, all medications should come from the same pharmacy. With computer technology, the local pharmacy can act as the 'gatekeeper' to signal the physician when medications from different doctors may interact or other problems that may occur with multiple medications.

If you use more than one pharmacy, make sure each one has a list of all your medications.

Medicines in the Hospital

If you are admitted to the hospital, bring an updated list of all your medications including over-the-counter medications, vitamins and herbal/natural products. You may also bring your medications in the original bottles. Get a Personal Medication Record to Help Track All Medications>>

Make sure your doctor knows all the drugs, medicines or preparations the person you care for is taking, whether these are prescribed by a doctor, purchased over the counter or provided by another health practitioner.

Ask questions of your doctor, pharmacist or nurse. If you don't understand something, ask for it to be explained in simpler terms. It is important to understand the following:

  • What is the name of the medicine, and what is it for?
  • Are there any possible side effects? What should I do if there are side effects?
  • How should I take it?
  • What should I do if a dose is missed?
  • Will the medicines interfere with others being taken?
  • Will the medicine affect other medical problems I have?
  • Is there anything I should avoid while taking the medicine, for example alcohol?

Taking Medicines Properly

Follow the directions given by the doctor, the pharmacist or as noted on the bottle. They should include how much of the medicine to take (for example 2 tablets), how often to take it (once a day), how to take it (suppository or by mouth), and when to take it (with meals).

Make sure medicines are taken at the right time. Some medicines work best on an empty stomach, others should be taken with food. Ask your pharmacist if you should avoid certain foods, beverages, other medicines or activities while you are taking the drug.

  • Never take medicine in the dark.
  • Follow label warnings on your medicine bottles.
  • Don't use the empty medicine bottles to store anything else.
  • Read the label or ask your pharmacist to find out how the medicine should be stored.
  • Go back to the doctor if the medicine doesn't seem to be working.
  • Do not share other people's medicine. Take only the medicine given to you by your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Do not take your medicine out of one bottle and put it in another one or mix medications in a bottle.
  • Put all of your medication in a place where children and pets cannot reach it.
  • If you take medicine each day, using a compartmental medication box may be helpful.
  • If you feel that any medicine is making you sick or causing you pain, call your doctor right away.
  • Make sure that any refill of the medicine you take is the same color, size and shape. If there is any difference, ask your pharmacist why.

If you have any questions about your medicine, ASK your pharmacist.

Things You Should Not Do

  • Don't stop using a prescribed medicine unless the doctor tells you to. Some medicines are not effective unless they are used all the time, and for a long period.
  • Don't use medicines that are out of date. They may no longer be effective.
  • Don't keep old or unused medicines. Your pharmacist can dispose of them for you.
  • Don't change the dose or time the medicine is taken without the doctor's advice.
  • Do not keep medicine in the car, by the stove or in the bathroom, since heat and moisture can alter how medications work.

Following these guidelines should ensure a much better outcome for you or a loved one.