Medication Safety: Your First Line of Defense

Is your medicine cabinet packed with bottles filled with various prescription or over-the-counter medicines, supplements or vitamins? Maybe you’ve even placed some of them in a pill organizer to keep track of what you’re supposed to take and when.

It’s important to be careful with any medicines, whether you’re the one taking them or you’re a caregiver who dispenses them. Some medications might have harmful interactions when taken together, and your body – your digestive system, circulatory system and liver and kidneys for example – may handle certain drugs differently as you get older, which could lead to possible complications, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The FDA offers the following tips to help you stay safe when taking your medications.

  • Talk with your health care provider and take all medicine as prescribed: Follow your doctor’s instructions and regularly take your medication. Do not stop taking the medicine or skip any doses without talking to your doctor first – even if you’re feeling better or think the medication isn’t working. Also, only take prescription medicines that your health care provider has prescribed for you, and talk with your doctor if there are side effects. If you have several doctors, tell each of them about all medicines and supplements you’re taking.
  • Keep a list of your medications: Create a list of all medications you’re taking – including the brand name of your medicine or its generic name, the dosage, how often you take it and the reason you’re taking it – and update the list regularly. Always carry it with you and provide a copy to a trusted relative or friend.
  • Learn about possible side effects and drug interactions: Talk with your doctor about any health issues you’re having, like memory problems, which could be a side effect of medication you’re taking. Also, review your health care provider’s instructions and check the medicine labels for any possible side effects for your medications, as well as any potential interactions among your medicines, supplements and specific food or beverages. Your pharmacist could also provide information about side effects and interactions.
  • Review all your medications with your doctor: Every time you visit your health care provider, talk about all over-the-counter and prescription medicines and supplements you’re taking. This will help determine if any of them are still appropriate for you to take, if any might be ineffective and if you can stop taking any of them.