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NIH MedlinePlus the Magazine, Trusted Health Information from the National Institutes of Health

Feature:
Taking Medicines Safely

Now, It's Your Turn: How You Can Take Medicine Safely

pill warning label
Woman Taking Pill

Your doctor has prescribed a medicine. The pharmacist has filled the prescription. Now it's up to you to take the medicine safely. Here are some tips that can help:

  • Make a list of all the medicines you take, including over-the-counter products and dietary supplements. Show it to all of your healthcare providers including physical therapists and dentists. Keep one copy in your medicine cabinet and one in your wallet or pocketbook. The list should include the: name of each medicine, doctor who prescribed it, reason it was prescribed, amount you take, and time(s) you take it.
  • Read and save in one place all written information that comes with the medicine.
  • Take your medicine in the exact amount and at the time your doctor prescribes.
  • Call your doctor right away if you have any problems with your medicine or if you are worried that it might be doing more harm than good. Your doctor may be able to change your prescription to a different one that will work better for you.
  • Use a memory aid to take your medicines on time. Some people use mealtime or bedtime as a reminder to take their medicine. Other people use charts, calendars, and weekly pill boxes. Find a system that works for you.
  • Do not skip doses of medication or take half doses to save money. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist if you can't afford the prescribed medicine. There may be less costly choices or special programs to help with the cost of certain drugs.
  • Avoid mixing alcohol and medicine. Some medicines may not work correctly or may make you sick if taken with alcohol.
  • Take your medicine until it's finished or until your doctor says it's okay to stop.
  • Don't take medicines prescribed for another person or give yours to someone else.
  • Don't take medicine in the dark. To avoid making a mistake, turn your light on before reaching for your pills.
  • Check the expiration dates on your medicine bottles. Your pharmacist can probably tell you how to safely get rid of medicine you no longer need or that is out of date. The pharmacist might be able to dispose of it for you.
  • Make sure you store all medicines and supplements out of sight and out of reach of children. And don't take your medicines in front of young children. They might try to copy you.

Find Out More

To sign up for regular email alerts about new publications and other information from the NIA, go to www.nia.nih.gov/health.

  • MedlinePlus: www.medlineplus.gov. Type in "medicines" in the Search box. Also, click on "Drugs & Supplements" to search for specific medicines.
  • Visit www.nihseniorhealth.gov, a senior-friendly website from the NIA and the National Library of Medicine. This website has health and wellness information for older adults. Special features make it simple to use. For example, you can click on a button to have the text read out loud or to make the type larger.
  • Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
    7500 Security Boulevard
    Baltimore, MD
    21244–1850
    1–800–633–4227 (1–800–MEDICARE/toll-free) www.medicare.gov
  • Food and Drug Administration
    10903 New Hampshire Avenue
    Silver Spring, MD 20993
    1–888–463–6332 (toll-free)
    www.fda.gov
  • Partnership for Prescription Assistance
    1–888–477–2669 (toll-free)
    www.pparx.org
Read More "Taking Medicines Safely" Articles

Medicines: Use Them Safely / At Your Doctor's Office / Ask Your Pharmacist / Now, It's Your Turn: How You Can Take Medicine Safely

Summer 2013 Issue: Volume 8 Number 2 Page 26