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Using Medicine Safely

Questions to ask your doctor about a new medicine

When your doctor prescribes a new drug, make sure you understand how to take the medicine before using it. These are some helpful questions to ask:

  • What is the name of the medicine, and why am I taking it?
  • How many times a day should I take it? At what times?
  • If the bottle says take "4 times a day," does that mean 4 times in 24 hours or 4 times during the daytime?
  • Should I take the medicine with food or without? Is there anything I should not eat or drink when taking this medicine?
  • What does "as needed" mean?
  • When should I stop taking the medicine?
  • If I forget to take my medicine, what should I do?
  • What side effects can I expect? What should I do if I have a problem?

Remember to tell your doctor about all the medicines you take whenever a new drug is prescribed. It is also helpful to tell your doctor about any problems you have had with medicines such as allergies, rashes, dizziness, or mood changes.

Your pharmacist can help

If you have questions about your medicine after you leave the doctor’s office, the pharmacist can answer many of them. A pharmacist can tell you how and when to take your medicine, whether a drug may change how another medicine you are taking works, and any side effects you might have.

When you have a prescription filled:

  • Tell the pharmacist if you have trouble swallowing pills. There may be liquid medicine available. Do not chew, break, or crush tablets without first finding out if the drug will still work.
  • Make sure you can read and understand the name of the medicine and the directions on the container. If the label is hard to read, ask your pharmacist to use larger type.
  • Check that you can open the container. If not, ask the pharmacist to put your medicines in bottles that are easier to open.
  • Ask about special instructions on where to store a medicine. For example, should it be kept in the refrigerator or in a dry place?
  • Check the label on your medicine before leaving the pharmacy. It should have your name on it and the directions given by your doctor.

What you can do

Your doctor has prescribed a medication. The pharmacist has filled the prescription. Now it’s up to you to take the medicine safely. Here are some tips that can help:

  • Make a list of all the medicines you take, including over-the-counter products and dietary supplements. Show it to all your health care providers. Keep one copy in your medicine cabinet and one in your wallet or pocketbook. The list should include the name of each medicine, reason it was prescribed, amount you take, and time(s) you take it.
  • Save in one place all written information that comes with the medicine.
  • Take your medicine in the exact amount and at the time your doctor prescribes.
  • Call your doctor right away if you have any problems with your medicine or if you are worried that it might be doing more harm than good.
  • Use a memory aid to take your medicines on time. Some people use meals or bedtime as reminders to take their medicine. Other people use charts, calendars, and weekly pill boxes. Find a system that works for you.
  • Do not skip doses of medication or take half doses to save money. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist if you can’t afford the prescribed medicine. There may be less costly choices or special programs to help with the cost of certain drugs. Customer Relations may also be able to help find programs to lower your prescription drug cost.
  • Avoid mixing alcohol and medicine. Some medicines may not work correctly or may make you sick if taken with alcohol.
  • Take your medicine until it's finished or until your doctor says it's okay to stop.
  • Don't take medicines prescribed for another person or give yours to someone else.
  • Don’t take medicine in the dark. To avoid making a mistake, turn your light on before reaching for your pills.
  • Check the expiration dates on your medicine bottles. Your pharmacist can probably tell you how to safely get rid of medicine you no longer need or that is out of date. The pharmacist might be able to dispose of it for you.    

How your plan helps: Customer Relations can answer your questions

If you have any questions, just call Customer Relations at 1-800-701-9000 (TTY 1-800-208-9562). Representatives are available 7 days a week, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. (From April 1 – September 30, representatives are available Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.) After hours and on holidays, please leave a message and a representative will return your call the next business day.