At the Pharmacy

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At the Pharmacy
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At the Pharmacy

Drug Resource Center
At the Pharmacy
At the Pharmacy
At the Pharmacy
Here are some safety tips about medications to keep in mind when you are at the pharmacy ...
InteliHealth/Harvard Medical Content

Here are some safety tips about medications to keep in mind when you are at the pharmacy ...

Your visit to the pharmacy is an important but often unappreciated step in maintaining your health and that of your family. Consumers have a wide array of over-the-counter medications to choose from. Many of the medications now available without a prescription were previously available only after a visit or phone call to your health-care provider.

This open access to medications provides you with the ability to rapidly self-medicate a variety of common ailments. But the open access also exposes you to potential harm if you don't use such medications correctly. Before you take any medication, including herbals and dietary supplements, read the label. Make certain that you know what the medication is used for, what the dose is, what warnings exist and what side effects you may experience.

If you have any questions, speak with the pharmacist. Pharmacists are trained in drug therapy issues and can advise you on what over-the-counter medications may be best for you. People with chronic medical conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes should not take some medications. Many over-the-counter medications, herbals and dietary supplements can interact with prescription medications. So it is important that you understand which medication is best and how to take it safely.

Drug Facts

Much of the same advice holds true when you are picking up a prescription medication. Most pharmacies across the country have computerized records of your prescriptions. But those records are only useful if you get all of your prescriptions at one pharmacy. So make certain that your pharmacist knows about all of the medications you take. The pharmacist needs to have a listing of all of your medications to check for medication interactions and to make certain that the medication prescribed is best for you.

Because many people see different health-care providers for different conditions, the pharmacist's role is very important to your safety. In many instances, the pharmacist may be the only person besides you who has a complete listing of the medications you take. It is also important that you make certain that the pharmacist knows about any medication allergies or food allergies you may have and any medication-related complications you may have had in the past. You should keep a list of all of the medications you take and all of the medication reactions you may have had, unless you can recall all of them quickly.

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Be inquisitive

You have an important role to play when you pick up your prescription at the pharmacy. Although very few people take advantage of the opportunity, you should always speak with the pharmacist when you start a new prescription. Taking a new medication is equivalent to an experiment. Although medical professionals know how medications work and how most people will respond, people are different because of their genetics, the disease they have and the other medications they take. So it is important that you know the answers to the following:

    • What is the name of the medication, and what strength are you taking?
      You will need this information to add to your list of medications.
    • Why have you been prescribed this medication?
      This information is important in case your health-care provider changes your medications for this condition. Many people suffer side effects because they mistakenly are taking several medications for the same condition.
    • How many doses should you take and when should you take them?
      You may have to take several tablets or capsules to get the right dose for you, or you may have to take the medication several times a day. Many people get into trouble by either overdosing or underdosing.
    • What side effects do you need to watch for?
      Many people who have suffered major side effects from medications could have prevented a serious event if they had recognized the early warning signs.
    • What should you do if you miss a dose?
      What you should do is going to depend on the medication and why you are taking it. Some medications should be taken as soon as you remember, others should not be. There are instances when timing is important. For example, with some medications, if you remember you missed a dose six hours ago, you should still take the medication, but if you remember you missed a dose 12 hours ago, you should not. Your pharmacist can provide you with this information.
    • How long do you need to take the medication?
      You should ask this question regardless of whether you are taking a medication for a short period of time, such as an antibiotic, or for life, such as high blood pressure medications. Many people do not take all of the doses of an antibiotic they have been prescribed. This can lead to incomplete treatment and, more importantly, to bacterial resistance to antibiotic therapy. If you are taking a medication for high blood pressure or diabetes, you should continue to take it until your health-care provider tells you to stop.
  • Do you need to avoid any foods or other medications while taking the medication?
    Everyone probably knows that some medications should not be taken together, but did you know that there are some medications that should not be taken with certain foods? Grapefruit juice, for example, prevents some medications from being metabolized. Aged cheeses can precipitate what is called a hypertensive crisis (very high blood pressure and risk of stroke or heart attack) in people taking medications called monoamine oxidase inhibitors.

Although it happens rarely, pharmacies sometimes make mistakes and give out the wrong medication or the wrong dose of a medication. Pharmacies have many safeguards to make certain that your prescription is filled correctly, that you have the right medication at the right strength. And pharmacists are trained to dispense medications.

But unfortunately, errors can and do occur. So it is important to ask about any changes in your medications. If the color or shape of the tablet or capsule is different, ask.

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medication,dose,high blood pressure,antibiotic,diabetes,dietary
Last updated February 12, 2014

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