Errors can occur in the storage, prescribing, transcription, dispensing, administration and monitoring of medications and can result in harm. Follow these tips to reduce your risk.
1. Have your doctor or nurse explain the intended effects, when to expect the medication to take effect and how long the effects will last. Some medications take a few minutes, while others can take weeks before the intended effects are noticed. Some medications will manage symptoms for a short period of time, while others are longer lasting.
2. Have your doctor or nurse explain the side-effects and risks associated with the medication, and what to do if you experience them. Some medications require additional monitoring, such as regular bloodwork, to determine therapeutic levels and potential health risks.
3. Make a list of all other medications you are taking including prescribed, over-the-counter, vitamins, minerals, herbs, illicit drugs, alcohol, allergies to any medications and past side-effects. Provide this information to your doctor and pharmacist prior to using a new medication. Some medications interact with each other to cause further health concerns.
4. Be sure you know when and how to take them. Read the label directions and follow them carefully. Some medications are taken with food, others are to be taken on an empty stomach. With some medication certain foods, alcohol and/or caffeine should be avoided because they can increase or decrease the strength of the medication.
5. Take medications at the same time each day unless otherwise instructed, to keep levels consistent.
6. Pay attention to the colour and shape of your medication. If they appear different, check with your pharmacist to ensure you received the correct prescription. Sometimes the appearance of a medication will change when the producer of the medication changes. Sometimes pharmacies make errors.
7. If the strength or dose of your medication changes without your prior knowledge, do not take it until you check it out with your healthcare provider.
8. Heat, air, light and moisture can damage medication. Most medications should be kept at room temperature in a cool, dry, dark area.
9. Do not stop your medication without your doctor’s direction, even if you are feeling better. Many medications need to be tapered down slowly to avoid withdrawal symptoms or to prevent a worsening of symptoms associated with the condition being treated.
10. Keep all medications secure and away from children and pets.