Using Medicines Safely
Here are some things you can do to be sure that you're taking medicines safely.
Make a list of all the medicines you take, and update it every time you get a new medicine. Use this form(What is a PDF document?) to track your medicines. If you stop taking a medicine, take it off your list. Keep a copy in your purse or wallet, and take it with you each time you see your doctor or see a new doctor. Have each doctor keep in your file a copy of your list of medicines.
Include herbal and dietary supplements, vitamins, and over-the-counter medicines on your list, because they can cause problems when you take them with some medicines. For example, ginkgo biloba, ginseng, and large amounts of garlic may make bleeding more likely. That means they could be dangerous when taken with other medicines that may cause bleeding, like the blood thinner warfarin (such as Coumadin) or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as ibuprofen.
Talk with your pharmacist or doctor before you take a new prescription, over-the-counter medicine, or supplement. It may be helpful to schedule a visit or call your pharmacist ahead of time to let him or her know that you want to talk about the medicines you take. Talk about:
- All the medicines, over-the-counter medicines, herbs, and supplements you take.
- Possible interactions with any other medicine you take.
- What to do if you think you are having an adverse reaction. Ask about who you should call and what you will need to do right away.
- Any health problems that you have.
Take your medicines as your doctor or the instructions say. This will make sure you get the most benefit, and it will help you avoid interactions and side effects. Be sure you know how much to take, when to take it, and whether you can take the medicine with food, drink, or alcohol. Also be sure you know what to do if you miss a dose. This applies to prescription or over-the-counter medicines, supplements, and herbs. For more information, see Taking Medicines as Prescribed.