Health Topics

General Medication Guidelines

You have the right and responsibility to know what medications are being prescribed for you. The more you know about your medications and how they work, the easier it will be for you to control your symptoms.

You and your doctor are partners in developing, adjusting and following an effective medication plan. Make sure that you understand and share the same treatment goals as your doctor. Talk about what you expect from medications so you can know if your treatment plan is working.

Here are some general guidelines

Before any medication is prescribed, tell your doctor if you have any allergies. Also tell your doctor about all other medications you are taking including over-the-counter medications, vitamins and herbal products.

Know the names of your medications (generic and brand names), why they are being prescribed, and their dosages. Always keep a list of your medications with you.

Know what side effects to expect from your medications. Call your doctor if you experience unexpected or troubling side effects.

Take your medications exactly as prescribed, at the same time(s) every day. Do not stop taking or change your medications unless you first talk with your doctor. Even if you feel good, continue to take your medications. Stopping your medications suddenly can make your condition worse.

Have a routine for taking your medications. Get a pillbox that is marked with the days of the week. Fill the pillbox at the beginning of each week to make it easier for you to remember.

Keep a medicine calendar and note every time you take a dose. Your prescription label tells you how much to take at each dose, but your doctor may change your dosage periodically, depending on your response to the medication. On your medication calendar, you can list any changes in your medication dosages as prescribed by your doctor.

Take your time. Double-check the name and dosage of all your medications before taking them.

Regularly fill your prescriptions and ask your pharmacist any questions you have about refilling your prescription. Know your pharmacy phone number, prescription number, medication name and dose so you can easily call for refills. Try to fill all your prescriptions at the same pharmacy, so the pharmacist can monitor for interactions and provide proper dosing and refills.

Do not wait until you are completely out of medication before filling your prescriptions; call the pharmacy or doctor’s office at least 48 hours before running out. If you have trouble getting to the pharmacy, have financial concerns or have other problems that make it difficult for you to get your medications, let your doctor know. A social worker may be available to help you.

If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and go back to your regular dosing schedule. Do not take two doses to make up for the dose you missed.

Do not decrease your medication dosage to save money. You must take the full amount to get the full benefits. Talk with your doctor about ways you can reduce the costs of your medications.

If you have prescription coverage, make sure you know the terms of your policy. Remind your doctor about the type of insurance coverage you have.

Do not stop taking your medication - talk to your doctor if you have concerns about your medication and how it is working.

Keep medications stored in their original containers. Store according to the instructions given with the prescription.

Check liquid medications often. If they have changed color or formed crystals, throw them away and get new ones.

Do not take any over-the-counter drugs or herbal therapies unless you ask your doctor first.

When traveling, keep your medications with you so you can take them as scheduled. On longer trips, take an extra week’s supply of medications and copies of your prescriptions, in case you need to get a refill.

The way the body responds to medications may change over time, so your medications may need to be adjusted. Tell your doctor if you notice a difference in how well the treatment plan is working.

Guidelines for use of over-the-counter pain relievers

Nonprescription pain relievers have been demonstrated to be safe when used as directed. In addition, keep the following precautions in mind:

  • Know the active ingredients in each product. Be sure to read the entire label.
  • Do not exceed the recommended dosage on the package.
  • Carefully consider how you use pain relievers and all medications: it is easy to over-medicate yourself.
  • Check with your doctor before taking products containing, aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen sodium if:
    • You have a bleeding disorder
    • You have asthma
    • You have recently had surgery or dental surgery or are about to have surgery
    • You have ulcers, kidney or liver disorders
    • You take any nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium
  • Check with your doctor before taking acetaminophen-containing products if you have kidney or liver problems.

Adapted from the American Council for Headache Education