Prescription medications play an important role in controlling chronic conditions – such as high blood pressure and diabetes – and in facilitating recovery from an illness or injury. It’s important for patients to take medications as prescribed by their doctors. Because of incorrect use of antibiotics, many bacteria have developed resistance to certain drugs, creating “super bugs.” Remember that antibiotics are not effective against a virus, and when an antibiotic is prescribed, you should finish the dose, even if you are feeling better after a few days.
Science has created a number of vaccines that can be used to protect individuals from specific diseases, such as the flu, measles, mumps, chicken pox and the shingles. Parents should ensure that their children receive appropriate immunizations, and adults should get annual flu shots, periodic tetanus boosters and the shingles vaccine after age 60. Depending on your general health, occupation or travel destinations, other immunizations also may be appropriate.
The following consumer information and resources can help you work with your health professionals to make the best medication choices, and to use medicine so it’s as safe and effective as possible.
- Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all the medications you take, especially if a different physician prescribes them. Include over-the-counter medicines such as aspirin and ibuprofen as well as vitamins, herbal supplements and weight-loss products.
- Alert your doctor and pharmacists about allergies to medications and other products often used, such as latex. Also alert all hospital nursing staff involved in your care. Be sure to mention these allergies to all health care providers involved in your care and treatment.
- Tell your doctor and pharmacist about adverse reactions to any medications or anesthesia you have had in the past, no matter how long ago it occurred.
- When your doctor writes you a prescription, make sure you can read it. If you can’t read your doctor’s handwriting, including his signature, your pharmacist may not be able to either. Also ask about generic alternatives that might be given.
- Ask your doctor about the medication being prescribed. How will it help your diagnosed condition? How should the medicine be used, and what is the dosage?
- Ask your pharmacist and doctor for information about your medicines in terms you can understand:
- What is this medicine for and how should I take it?
- How much should I take? For how long?
- Is this medicine safe to take with my other medications or dietary supplements?
- What food, drink or activity should I avoid while on the medication?
- What side effects should I expect and how should they be handled?
- When you pick up your prescription, ask: Is this the medication my doctor prescribed? If it is a refill, question the pharmacist if the shape or color is different.
- Make sure you can read the prescription label and understand the instructions and any warnings. If it is a liquid, ask the pharmacist about the best device to measure the dose and make sure you know how to use it.
General Information On Medications
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration Information for Consumers – an alphabetical listing of medication-related topics with helpful links.
- Information About the FDA’s Regulation of Drugs – The FDA’s main page for Drugs contains links to a variety of resources. Links are provided for information about drug recalls, drug approvals, drug shortages, etc. Information about counterfeit medications and buying drugs on the Internet also is available.
Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage
- The Medicare prescription drug program resource page from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services – provides helpful information for evaluating whether this program is for you.
- The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Drug Coverage (Part D) webpage provides helpful information and resources regarding prescription drug plans under Medicare.
- Check Your Medicines – The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality for taking medicines safely
- Pharmacy Safety: Consumer Fact Sheet
- Pharmacy Safety and Service: What You Should Expect – Many patients take medications to maintain their health or to complete their recovery after discharge from the hospital. Your local pharmacist and pharmacy provide these prescription drugs according to your physician’s orders. The National Patient Safety Foundation provides helpful information about your role in making sure your medications are correct and used safely.
- Quick Tips When Getting a Prescription includes questions to ask your doctor or pharmacist – The AHRQ offers information to help you when getting a prescription filled, including questions to ask your doctor or pharmacist.
- Your Medicine: Be Smart. Be Safe – The AHRQ and the National Council on Patient Information and Education provide information about how to use medications safely and provide downloadable guides to help you manage and use your medications.
- Women and Medicines – AHRQ provides information on how medicines can work differently in men and women, and what you can do to help your medicine work best for you.