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Pharmacy and Medication Tips

    All medications sold in the U.S. can be divided into two categories:

    • Prescription drugs that require a prescription to be sold

    • Nonprescription or over-the-counter drugs that do not require a prescription from a doctor

    Prescription drugs are generally more potent than those sold over-the-counter (OTC) and may have more serious side effects if inappropriately used. Therefore, these medications are only sold under a doctor's direction. These directions are written on a prescription by your doctor, then double-checked, packaged, and sold to you by a pharmacist.

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    You should use only one pharmacy to fill your prescriptions. That way, you will have a single, complete source for all of your medications. The pharmacist will be more likely to pick up potential interactions among them. This applies to OTC as well as prescription drugs.

    When you fill your prescription at the pharmacy, make sure to do the following:

    • Your pharmacist must have the same information as your doctor regarding your medications and past reactions you have had (again, no reaction is too trivial to bring up).

    • If there are children in the home, make sure to ask for child-resistant lids.

    • If no children are in the household, your pharmacist may be able to provide you with easier opening lids. A special note of warning must be made regarding visiting grandchildren and the need to keep drugs out of their reach.

    • If the medication is a liquid, get a measuring device with the prescription -- usually a measuring teaspoon or a medical syringe. Don't trust the volume of your home teaspoon or your ability to guess how much one-half of this would be.

    • Find out how the medication is to be stored. Most people leave their medications in their bathroom medicine cabinet. This is arguably the worst place in the house for pills because the humidity in a bathroom can make them break down more easily. Other drugs need to be refrigerated. Find out about yours before you leave the drug store.

    • Before you leave the pharmacy, also check to make sure the medication you are given is actually the drug you think you are supposed to have filled. Look at the directions on taking the medication. Do these match what the doctor told you? Ask the pharmacist any questions you may have.

    • If you don't have some already, ask about a bottle of ipecac syrup. This is used to make people vomit if they should accidentally take something they shouldn't. Call your regional poison control center before using ipecac, though. Ipecac syrup is being used less frequently these days, and the poison centers will give you the guidance you need. You can get the poison control center number at this Web site -- -- or at the pharmacy. Keep this number near your phone in case of an emergency.

    WebMD Medical Reference

    Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on October 13, 2013
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