Be Involved in Your Health Care: Taking Medications

When medications are taken as directed, they can greatly improve your health. But if they are not taken as instructed, they may not work. In some cases, not taking them correctly can be harmful. To help ensure your treatment remains effective and safe, understand your medications and how to take them.

Pharmacist handing woman bottle of pills over counter.Reviewing Your Medications

Medications can interact with each other. They can also interact with herbal remedies and supplements. In either case, it can be harmful to your health. This is why your health care provider needs to know about every medication, herb, and supplement that you take. Schedule a visit with your health care provider or pharmacist to discuss all your medications. When you go in for your visit, have either 1 of the following:

  • A bag filled with bottles of all your medications. Include all prescription and over-the-counter medications. Also include any vitamins and herbal remedies that you take. Keep medications in their labeled bottles.

OR

  • A list of all the medications, vitamins, herbs, and supplements that you take. Be sure to list how much you take and how often you take it.

Your health care provider or pharmacist will review your medications with you. He or she can decide whether you are at risk for any drug interactions. Depending on what you take, your prescriptions may be adjusted.

Remembering to Take Medications

Remembering to take medications on time can be hard. Here are some tips to help you:

  • Develop a routine. For example, take your medication at the same time each day, such as after you brush your teeth. This helps remind you to take it.

  • Schedule reminders on your computer, PDA, watch, or cell phone.

  • If you take more than 1 medication, use a pillbox. Get 1 that lists the days of the week. If you take pills more than once a day, get a pillbox that has spaces for morning, noon, and evening. As you fill the pillbox, have the bottles with labels in front of you. This helps you avoid confusing pills that look alike.

  • Keep your medication routine when you’re away from home. When traveling, make sure you bring enough for your entire trip. When traveling by air, keep your medications in your carry-on. Be sure you have your prescription labels (either the original package or a photocopy). To learn more about traveling with medications, visit: www.tsa.gov.

Working with Your Health Care Provider

Follow up with your health care provider. This lets him or her see how well you are doing on the medication. It may take a few tries to find the right dosage, medication, or combination of medications for you. Make sure you talk with your health care provider about the medications you take and how they make you feel. And never stop taking a medication without talking to your health care provider first. Some medications cannot be stopped suddenly. Others can cause problems if they are not taken for the prescribed amount of time.

Taking Medication Safely

Below are some tips for taking medication safely. If you have any questions about your medications, call your health care provider or pharmacist:

  • Make sure to refill your prescription while you still have some left, so you don’t run out. Ask your health provider for an “extra” written prescription in case of an emergency. If you use mail order, be sure to order with enough time for the refill to arrive while you still have some left.

  • Be sure refills are correct before taking them.

  • Hold on to the instructions that come with each medication.

  • Don’t take less than prescribed to save money. Talk to your health care provider if you can’t afford your medications. There are options that can help you.

  • Never share medications.

  • Store medications in a cool, dry, dark place. A steamy bathroom is often not the best place.