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
Include herbal and dietary
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
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
- 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
Taking Medicines as Prescribed.
Use a drug interaction checker. Ask your doctor or pharmacist
to run your medicine list through a drug interaction checker. This checks for
medicines that can have bad interactions. If you find a problem, talk to your
Use one drugstore or pharmacy, if possible. The pharmacist will know which medicines you take and will
watch for interactions. If you fill prescriptions at more than one pharmacy,
make sure that each of them has the same information about your medicines.
Know which medicines to avoid. Because of
possible bad reactions, some people may need to avoid some medicines. For
example, if you have
heart failure and are taking digoxin, you may have
problems with clarithromycin-an antibiotic used for pneumonia-because it
increases the effect of digoxin. If you have heart failure or kidney problems
or take certain blood pressure medicines, you may have problems with the
diabetes medicine metformin.
something that seems as harmless as grapefruit juice can change how your body
uses medicines. Cholesterol-lowering medicines (statins) and high blood
pressure medicines are two examples of medicines that grapefruit juice affects.
If you take these medicines, your doctor may suggest that you don't drink
grapefruit juice. For more information, see the topic
Grapefruit Juice and Medicines.