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Prevent Errors With Medicines


What to ask your pharmacist

  • What does this prescription say? If you can't read your doctor's handwriting on a prescription, ask what it says. If your pharmacist can't read it, have him or her call your doctor. Don't guess.
  • Is this what my doctor prescribed? When you get your medicine, check to make sure it's the right medicine. Read the label to make sure you have the correct medicine, at the correct dose. If you are refilling a prescription and the size, shape, or color of the pills look different than before, ask the pharmacist about it.
  • How do I measure the medicine if it's a liquid? Liquids can be hard to measure. The teaspoon you use for cooking, for example, may hold a different amount from what the doctor means. It may also be hard to know which line to fill a syringe or dropper to.
  • What does the label say? Medicine labels can be confusing. For example, ask if "take 1 time a day in the morning" means you can take it any time in the morning or early in the morning. If you have any questions about what a label says, ask about it. Do this for both prescription and over-the-counter medicines.

Keeping track of your medicines

  • Plan a daily schedule of medicines. Use this form(What is a PDF document?). Put your schedule somewhere where you will always see it and where it's easy to find.
  • Keep your pills in a pillbox. Get a pillbox that holds a week's worth of pills.
  • Set reminders. Use your cell phone, a watch you can program, a scheduling program on the computer, or other types of timers to remind you when it's time to take your medicines.
  • Sign up for safety alert emails about the medicines you take. Go to

For more information, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.


WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: December 18, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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