Four Steps to Medication Safety

You go to the doctor. He/she prescribes a new medication to address what ails you. You take it and feel better. Simple, right? Actually, it’s not. According to the FDA, “…when medicines are not used correctly, they can cause serious health problems or even death.” Fortunately, just by taking a few simple precautions, you can greatly reduce your chance of experiencing an adverse result from taking medicine that’s supposed to help, not harm. Here’s what the FDA recommends:

  1. Ask questions. Know the name and what it’s for. Ask about potential side effects and whether it’s important when you take it. Ask what you should do if you think you are experiencing side effects from taking it.
  2. Have a current medication list with you. Take inventory of what you’re taking and write it down. Include the name, dosage, and how often you take it. Include everything including prescription and over-the-counter medications – even vitamins and pain relievers.
  3. Follow directions. It’s surprising how many patients decide to either cut down or increase the dosage of their medication on their own. Read the directions and don’t skip or increase your dosage. If you think you need to stop or change your medication, call your provider first. A word about sharing and expiration dates – respect the “no sharing” rule (you’re not a doctor) and don’t take medicine after the expiration date. At best it may not work. At worst, it may no longer be safe.
  4. Know safe disposal practices. Different medications require different disposal methods. Safeguard your privacy by removing your personal information from labels before throwing medicine containers away and make sure curious children (or pets) don’t have access to it. For more information on what medicines should be flushed rather than thrown in the trash check the FDA website.
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