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Nutrition & General Wellness

Manage Your Medicines

Managing medicine can be complicated, particularly if you are taking several, and treating different conditions.

Managing medicines

The following suggestions will help you manage your medicines:

  • Understand the exact dose and timing of each medicine your healthcare provider prescribes. Verify the information with your pharmacist when you have the prescriptions filled.

  • If you go to different healthcare providers for different conditions, it's extremely important to tell all of them about each medicine you are taking. It may help to carry a list with you at all times. Ask your pharmacist for a medicine wallet card that will help you keep an up-to-date list of your medicines with you. Make sure your pharmacy has a record of all the medicines that you take including any over-the-counter medicines.

  • Tell all your healthcare providers and your pharmacist if you have any allergies so they can also keep that important information in your records.  

  • Write your daily schedule for medicines on a calendar or chart. Be sure to update the schedule each time your medicine changes.

  • Follow the schedule exactly, and take the exact dosage prescribed by your healthcare provider. Do not change the dose (take more or less of the medicine) without checking with your healthcare provider.

  • Know which medicines need to be taken on an empty stomach or with food. 

  • Use a weekly or daily pill organizer—especially when taking several different medicines—to help make sure that you get the right dose at the right time. Ask at your pharmacy to see what pill organizers are available. There are smartphone or computer-based apps that may also help.

  • Keep medicines in their original containers—except for those you put in an organizer. The labels contain important information such as medicine name, dosage, healthcare provider's name, and expiration dates.

  • Medicines should could be kept in a dry, cool place (not in the bathroom.)

  • Do not take medicine in the dark, when you are tired, or when you are distracted. You might take the wrong medicine or too much. Ask for help, if needed, to find and take the correct medicine.

  • Alcohol can interact with many different kinds of medicines. Ask your healthcare providers or pharmacist whether it is safe to drink alcohol with any prescription or over-the-counter medicine.

  • When children or grandchildren are around, keep medicine containers out of reach, particularly those that do not have childproof caps.

  • Never take a medicine that was prescribed for someone else. (See below for cautions about costs of taking medicines not intended for you.)

  • If your healthcare provider has told you to discontinue a medicine, dispose of it immediately. (See below for disposal recommendations.) Do not keep it for future needs. The cost of having side effects or a medicine interaction if you accidentally take that medicine would be greater than the cost of the medicine.

  • Dispose of a medicine once the expiration date has passed. Always inquire at your pharmacy about any medicine take back programs in your city. If one is not available, follow any specific disposal instructions on the medicine label or patient information that accompanies the medicine. If no instructions are given, crush and mix medicines with coffee grounds, cat litter, or food scraps; seal them in a bag or a container (such as a margarine tub or jar) and discard them in the regular trash. There are some medicines that are harmful and could be fatal if accidently taken by children or anyone else. Opioid pain medicines should be flushed in the toilet. Ask your pharmacist if you are not sure how to dispose of your medicines.

  • Never stop taking a medicine on your own—always get your healthcare provider's guidance. Some medicines must be stopped gradually to avoid complications.

  • If the medicine is making you feel sick or causing side effects that you find difficult to tolerate, talk to your healthcare provider about adjusting the dose or changing the medicine.

Online Medical Reviewer: Freeborn, Donna, PhD, CNM, FNP
Online Medical Reviewer: Hurd, Robert, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 9/1/2016
© 2000-2016 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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