Taking Your Medications: Stay Smart, Stay Organized

About 30 to 50 percent of those who take medicines at home do not use them as directed, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Women’s Health. This leads to more doctor visits, hospital stays, lost wages and changed prescriptions. All this costs Americans more than $100 billion each year. 

As adults, we often take care of medicines for the whole family as well as ourselves. So we need to read the label, avoid problems, ask questions and keep good records. 

  • Read the label. The label should show the list of ingredients. If you know you are allergic to anything in the medicine, don’t use it. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for a different medicine. Read all warnings carefully. Note the expiration date and don’t use a medicine after the date on the bottle. Ask your pharmacist about any questions you may have.

  • Avoid problems. Medicines can cause problems such as sleepiness, vomiting, bleeding, headaches or rashes. Ask in advance about any possible side effects from each medication you take. Don’t skip taking your medication without checking with your doctor. Do not share medications with others. Don’t take medications in the dark. Always make sure you can read the label clearly.

  • Organize your medicines.  Keep an updated list of all medications you use, including prescription drugs, over-the- counter medications and supplements. Include on your list the date when it was last updated. You may want to create a spreadsheet listing the name of the medication, dosage, when to take it, what it’s for and the prescribing doctor’s name. Bring your medication list to every doctor appointment.

  • Ask questions. When a new medication is prescribed, ask your doctor: What is the medication’s name? Is there a generic version available? Why am I taking this medication? When should I take it? Should I take it on an empty stomach or with food? Is it safe to drink alcohol while taking this medication? If I forget to take it, what should I do? How much should I take? How long should I continue to take it? What problems or side effects should I watch for? NOTE: If you are pregnant or nursing a baby, seek the advice of your doctor before taking any medication or supplement.