- Find out the name of your medication. Rather than simply letting your doctor write a prescription and send you on your way, be sure to ask the name of the medication. This way you'll notice if the pharmacy gives you something different.Also, every time you receive a refill, look at the medication before you leave the pharmacy to make sure it looks the same as what you had before. Is it the same color, size, shape, and texture? Is the packaging the same? If anything about the medication seems different, ask the pharmacist about it."
- Ask questions about how to use the medication. It's important to choose a doctor and pharmacist that you feel comfortable with so that you can freely ask questions. Some good questions to ask:
What should I do if I forget a dose?
Should I take this medication before, during, or after meals?
What should the timing be between each dose?
What side effects might I have?
Are there any other medications, food, or activities that I should avoid while using this medication?
Should the medication be stored in the refrigerator or at room temperature?
- Know what your medication is for. Stephen Setter, Pharm.D., associate professor of pharmacotherapy at Washington State University in Spokane, says one of his patients mistakenly thought her glaucoma medication was for treating headaches. "So she was taking her eye medication only when she had a headache, but she should have been taking it every day to treat her eye disease," Setter says. It's important to understand your medication because you are more likely to use it correctly, more likely to know what to expect from the medication, and better able to report what you are using and problems to your doctors and pharmacist.
- Read medicine labels and follow directions. Before you use any medication, you should know when to use it, how much to use, and how long to use it
- Keep all of your health care providers informed about your medications and dietary supplements (including vitamins and herbals). Make it a habit of showing your list of medications to all your health care professionals at every visit to the doctor, the pharmacy, and the hospital. Keeping all of your health care professionals informed about everything that you use will help ensure that you do not use two medicines with the same active ingredient or use anything that will interact with something else you are using.
Keep the list of your medications with you at all times and let a loved one know. Keep a list of your medications and dietary supplements with you at all times, such as in your wallet or purse, and keep a copy in your home. Share a copy of the medication list with a family member or friend, or let them know where you keep the list. In an emergency, that person will be able to inform your doctors of the medications and dietary supplements you use.