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Taking your medicine correctly

Created date

August 23rd, 2011

According to U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin, three out of four Americans are not following their doctor s advice when it comes to taking prescription medication. Most people don t do this on purpose; rather, it s more likely that they don t have the right information to get the maximum benefit from their medicine. Understanding how to take your medications correctly and safely can be a challenge. Sometimes you have to go beyond simply following the directions on the bottle.

Be proactive

One of the most important things you can do is give your doctor and all your health care providers an updated list of your prescriptions and over-the-counter medications, including vitamins and supplements. Inform them about your allergies, and make sure all of your providers are aware of who else on your health care team prescribes medicine. Keep your list current and review it regularly with your doctor and pharmacist. Having all your prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy can help as well. Your pharmacist can review your medication list for potentially dangerous drug interactions. Learn everything you can about your medications, including why you re taking them, the brand and generic names, any possible interactions, side effects, and how to store them. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for detailed directions. For instance, does take three times a day mean at breakfast, lunch, and dinner or every eight hours? Write your questions and concerns down so you ll remember them. Know your treatment plan and stick with it. If you re taking an antibiotic, you should generally finish the entire prescription even if your symptoms resolve. If you re taking something for a chronic condition like high blood pressure, ask about refills and when you might need to have your blood pressure checked again. Finally, please tell your doctor about side effects, even if you ve mentioned them before. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the National Council on Patient Information and Education has a free guide available to help you take medicines safely. Your Medicine: Be Smart. Be Safe. includes a complete list of questions you can ask your doctor and other helpful medication safety tips. You can read or download it at call 1-800-358-9295 for a copy. Medicines can be very helpful but they are not without risk; become better informed and never hesitate to ask your doctor about side effects and possible reactions. He or she knows your health history and can individualize your medication regimen to keep you well. In good health, Dr. Narrett