How can I take medications safely and effectively?

Follow these tips to make sure you’re using medications safely and effectively:
  • Always ask your doctor or pharmacist for published information (a brochure from the manufacturer, for example) on any drug you’ve been prescribed. If you have trouble reading printed material, such as a prescription medication insert, enlarge it. Photocopy machines at copy shops, libraries and post offices are capable of enlarging print to make it easier to read, or scan it into the computer or use a magnifying glass to help you read.
  • Ask specifically about every drug’s side effects, the amount of time it will take for the drug to reach full effectiveness in your body, and whether any potentially harmful interactions can occur between the drugs you are taking (both prescription and nonprescription). Ask if you can try a 1-week supply of the drug to see how well you tolerate it before purchasing an entire month’s supply.
  • Consult the Physician’s Desk Reference (PDR), available on-line, for specific information about your medications.
  • Start a new medication as early in the day as possible. If you have an adverse reaction, it will be easier to reach the doctor.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist to write the number of times a day you should take your medication. It is easy to misinterpret dosing instructions when they are written as hourly intervals (e.g., one tablet every 6 hours). But few people misinterpret instructions that specify daily frequency (e.g., one tablet four times per day). Write out the dosage schedule and carry it with you. Check off each dose as you take it. If a particular drug must be taken in the middle of the night, ask if an alternative prescription is available that is more convenient to take.
  • A “talking” pill bottle verbally instructs you about your medication. Have your pharmacist record the name of the medication, the dosage, and the frequency which you should take your medication into the cap. (You or a family member or friend can also do this.) Whenever you need a reminder, just push the button and the instructions will be repeated for you.
Parkinson's Disease (300 Tips for Making Life Easier)

More About this Book

Parkinson's Disease (300 Tips for Making Life Easier)

Being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease can be distressing, and adjusting to the effects of the disease can be difficult. The second edition of Parkinson's Disease: 300 Tips for Making Life Easier...

Continue Learning about Prescription Drug Adherence

The Dangers of Stopping and Reducing Prescribed Medications
The Dangers of Stopping and Reducing Prescribed Medications
Two pieces of medical news have grabbed our attention; both had to do with the importance of taking your meds as prescribed. The first was a study in ...
Read More
Which medicines come with the chance of adverse effects?
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MDDr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Every day millions of us snap off the top of a medicine bottle with the hopes that it will prevent, ...
More Answers
How many adults admit not always taking their medications as prescribed?
Three out of four adults acknowledge not always taking their medicines as directed. Poor adherence ...
More Answers
How to Prevent Medication Errors and Accidental Overdose
How to Prevent Medication Errors and Accidental Overdose

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.