Have you ever wanted to ask a question about your medicine? But maybe you thought it was a silly question that was not worth bothering your healthcare provider about. Below are answers to some common questions you may have about your medicine. Always talk with your healthcare provider about taking, storing, and disposing of your specific medicines.
Is this exactly what my doctor prescribed?
It happens a lot: People stop taking their medication as prescribed — or don’t fill their prescriptions in the first place. Maybe it’s cost. Maybe it’s side effects. Maybe you feel better and don’t think you need the medicine anymore.
If you are not taking your medication at the time, dose and frequency prescribed, it’s called medication non-adherence. This can have a short-term and long-term impact on your health.
“A lot of individuals do not realize the damage that a lack of medication adherence can have on their bodies,” Michael Dulan, “Many think that if they miss taking a pill and their blood pressure or blood sugar is too high, for example, it is not that big of an issue. But it has a cumulative effect on the body.”
What is the name and strength of my prescription?
It is also important to keep an updated record of your medical information. This record should include the following:
- Names and phone numbers of all your healthcare providers
- Names and phone numbers of all your pharmacies/pharmacists
- Prescription and over-the-counter medications and the dosage of each one
- Allergies and resulting reactions
- Personal and family medical history
- Major surgeries or illnesses including dates, if possible
- Immunizations, screenings and other procedures including dates, if possible
All medicines have one generic name, and perhaps one or more brand names. For example, Ritalin is a brand name Methylphenidate. When you are taking medicine, it is important to know both the generic and the brand names. This information will prevent you from taking too much of the same medicine, which can lead to an overdose.
Sometimes, the brand names are prescribed for entirely different reasons. For example, one medicine is called Prozac when it’s used to treat depression and Sarafem when it’s used to reduce pre-menstrual symptoms. In this case, the drug company felt some women may be uncomfortable taking a medicine called Prozac if it wasn’t being used to treat depression. But Prozac and Sarafem are the same medicine. Its generic name is fluoxetine, which will always be the same no matter what condition the medicine is being used to treat. So a woman taking Prozac for depression should not assume that it’s safe to take Sarafem for pre-menstrual symptoms, too.
How often should I take this drug?
To help your body regain strength and grow new, healthy cells, you might take the drugs over a few weeks. You might take doses every day, every week, or every month. It depends on the condition you have and how severe it is. Given so much discussion these days about opioid and painkiller addictions, it may seem reasonable to modify the prescription on your own, perhaps skipping a dose when you don’t feel you need it. For example, if your prescription says to take your pain medication every four hours but you don’t feel any pain, should you continue to take the medicine as prescribed or wait until you feel pain?
It is best to follow the prescribed dosage and schedule exactly. Your healthcare provider has no doubt made a careful decision about how much pain medication you should take and how often you should take it to achieve the best possible relief of your pain. Your important job is to take your pain medication exactly as prescribed. It is always easier to prevent pain rather than treat it. Skipping a dose or waiting until you feel the pain to take a scheduled dose will likely interfere with your physician’s pain management plan and may result in you suffering from pain unnecessarily.
What should I do if I miss a dose?
More than 80% of patients occasionally miss a dose of their medication. Health practitioners ought to plan with their patients what to do if a dose is missed. Missing a dose or two of your medications may not seem like a big deal. Americans fail to follow their doctor or pharmacist’s instructions about half the time. Patients believe that this plan should be a required part of the information received when a medication is prescribed and dispensed. Consumer Medicine Information sheets, which are available for most commonly prescribed medications, contain a section on what to do if a dose is missed. The routine use of these sheets or similar advice may help patients to know what to do when they miss a dose.
Sometimes the skipped doses cause no obvious problems. But many medications won’t work right if you don’t take them when and the way you’re supposed to. Nevertheless you have no reason to miss a dose of your medication. If you happen to miss a dose of your medication, you should have in mind the problems it can cause.
Your treatment might fail. If you miss a dose or don’t finish your antibiotics, your infection might last longer or even come back. Then you may need a longer drug course or more powerful antibiotics. Incomplete treatments also may make you resistant to antibiotics, so take all your prescribed pills even if you feel better or experience an unpleasant reaction.
You might feel “withdrawal” effects. Antidepressants, for example, may work by triggering chemical changes in your brain. If you miss a dose or quit altogether, the sudden chemical shifts can lead to symptoms like:
- Sleep problems
- Mood changes
- Flu-like symptoms
Your disease may get harder to treat. If you skip your HIV medication, it may allow your virus strain a chance to gain resistance to the treatment. That will make your infection harder to control.
You might face serious complications. If you don’t take your blood pressure pills for your heart as prescribed, it could raise your chances of a heart attack, a stroke, kidney failure, or other complications. Even OTC drugs can be dangerous to skip. If your doctor told you to take aspirin every day after a heart attack or a stroke, quitting may make your condition “rebound” and cause another heart attack.
It is very important to know these complications you could face as a result of missing a dosage of your medication as some patients do when they feel better or maybe having unpleasant reactions as earlier mentioned.
Does it matter what time of day I take this drug?
Whether you need to take a drug at a specific time of day depends on the medication and the condition you are treating. For some medicines, it doesn’t matter what time you take it. And for others, the pharmacist may recommend you take it at the same time each day.
But we estimate that for around 30% of all medicines, the time of day you take it does matter. And a recent study shows blood pressure medications are more effective if you take them at night.
Is there anything I should avoid while taking this drug (such as driving or alcohol)?
Yes of course there is! A number of substances — including other medications, foods and beverages — may interact with your meds and decrease its absorption and effectiveness of the particular drug. It is always advisable to tell your health care provider about everything you take, including nutritional supplements.
When taking antibiotics, it’s very vital t that you understand which foods to avoid eating. Certain foods can inhibit absorption of the medication, while others cause nausea and other unpleasant side effects, such as diarrhea, vomiting, and more.
Drinking alcohol while taking medicines can intensify these effects. You may have trouble concentrating or performing mechanical skills. Small amounts of alcohol can make it dangerous to drive, and when you mix alcohol with certain medicines you put yourself at even greater risk.
How will it interact with other prescription or over-the-counter drugs I am taking?
There are thousands of prescription drugs, with more and more new medications introduced every year, and hundreds of dietary supplements and herbal products available in pharmacies and stores in the U.S. Consumers should be aware of the dangers of combining certain drugs and other substances, including supplements, herbal products, foods, and beverages.
Whenever two or more drugs are being taken, there is a chance that there will be an interaction among the drugs. The interaction may increase or decrease the effectiveness of the drugs or the side effects of the drugs. The likelihood of drug interactions increases as the number of drugs being taken increases. Therefore, people who take several drugs are at the greatest risk for interactions. Drug interactions contribute to the cost of healthcare because of the costs of medical care that are required to treat problems caused by changes in effectiveness or side effects. Interactions also can lead to psychological suffering that can be avoided. This review discusses the issue of drug interactions and several ways to avoid them.
What are drug interactions?
A drug interaction can be defined as an interaction between a drug and another substance that prevents the drug from performing as expected. This definition applies to interactions of drugs with other drugs (drug-drug interactions), as well as drugs with food (drug-food interactions) and other substances.
How do drug interactions occur?
There are several mechanisms by which drugs interact with other drugs, food, and other substances. An interaction can result when there is an increase or decrease in:
- the absorption of a drug into the body;
- distribution of the drug within the body;
- alterations made to the drug by the body (metabolism); and
- elimination of the drug from the body.
What side effects should I watch for?
As more people use the internet to understand their health issues, some also go online to buy prescription medication. But many online pharmacies are unregistered, so buying from them is potentially unsafe
You should use only one pharmacy to fill your prescriptions. That way, you will have a single, complete source for all of your medications. The pharmacist will be more likely to pick up potential interactions among them and contact your doctor if needed. This applies to OTC as well as prescription drugs.
From the homely aspirin to the most sophisticated prescription medicine on the market, all drugs come with side effects. Many are minor, some are just an inconvenience, a few are serious, and some are just plain strange.
Even though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration may approve a drug or medical device for use, it may still cause side effects or complications for some patients. Manufacturers, regulators and health care professionals have to weigh the benefits of a drug or device against its risks. Sometimes this means comparing risks to benefits for the general population. Other times it may mean comparing risks to benefits for an individual patient.
What should I do if I have a bad reaction?
Everyone reacts to medications differently. One person may develop a rash while taking a certain medication, while another person on the same drug may have no adverse reaction. Does that mean the person with the rash has an allergy to that drug?
All medications have the potential to cause side effects, but only about 5 to 10% of adverse reactions to drugs are allergic.
Allergy symptoms are the result of a chain reaction that starts in the immune system. Your immune system controls how your body defends itself. For instance, if you have an allergy to a particular medication, your immune system identifies that drug as an invader or allergen. Your immune system may react to medications in several ways. One type of immune reaction is due to production of antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE) specific to the drug. These antibodies travel to cells that release chemicals, triggering an immediate allergic reaction. This reaction causes symptoms in the nose, lungs, throat, sinuses, ears, lining of the stomach or on the skin and usually occurs within minutes to a few hours of taking the drug.
The most common immune response to a drug is due to the expansion of T cells, a type of white blood cell that recognize the drug as foreign. These T cells orchestrate a delayed immune response that most often affects the skin, causing itchy rashes, and occurs days to weeks after exposure to the drug.
Most allergic reactions occur within hours to two weeks after taking the medication and most people react to medications to which they have been exposed in the past. This process is called “sensitization.” However, rashes may develop up to six weeks after starting certain types of medications.
The most severe form of immediate allergic reactions is anaphylaxis (an-a-fi-LAK-sis). Symptoms of anaphylaxis include hives, facial or throat swelling, wheezing, light-headedness, vomiting and shock.
Most anaphylactic reactions occur within one hour of taking a medication or receiving an injection of the medication, but sometimes the reaction may start several hours later. Anaphylaxis can result in death, so it is important to seek immediate medical attention if you experience these symptoms.
Antibiotics are the most common culprit of anaphylaxis, but more recently, chemotherapy drugs and monoclonal antibodies have also been shown to induce anaphylaxis.
The most severe form of delayed drug reactions not only cause rashes but may also involve other organs including the liver, kidneys, lungs, and heart. Blisters may be a sign of serious drug reactions called Stevens-Johnson Syndrome and Toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN), where the surfaces of your eye, lips, mouth and genital region may be eroded.
You should seek medical help immediately if you experience any of these. Many medications can cause these severe delayed reactions including antibiotics, medications for epilepsy (seizures), depression and gout.
However, not all drug allergic reactions involve a specific immune reaction. Some people experience flushing, itching or a drop in blood pressure from intravenous dyes used in x-rays or CT scans. If you take angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors for high blood pressure, you may develop a cough or facial and tongue swelling.
In addition, some people are sensitive to aspirin, ibuprofen or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). One type of aspirin or NSAID sensitivity may cause a stuffy nose, wheezing and difficulty breathing. This is most common in adults with asthma and in people with nasal polyps (benign growths). Other reactions to NSAIDs can result in hives or in rare instances, severe reactions can result in shock.
A number of factors influence your chances of having an adverse reaction to a medication. These include: genetics, body chemistry, frequent drug exposure or the presence of an underlying disease. Also, having an allergy to one drug predisposes an individual to have an allergy to another unrelated drug. Contrary to popular myth, a family history of a reaction to a specific drug typically does not increase your chance of reacting to the same drug.
Non-allergic reactions are much more common than drug allergic reactions. These reactions are usually predictable based on the properties of the drugs involved. Symptoms of non-allergic drug reactions vary, depending on the type of medication. People being treated with chemotherapy often suffer from vomiting and hair loss. Certain antibiotics irritate the intestines, which can cause stomach cramps and diarrhea.
It is important to tell your physician about any adverse reaction you experience while taking a medication. Be sure to keep a list of any drugs you are currently taking and make special note if you have had past reactions to specific medications. Share this list with your physician and discuss whether you should be avoiding any particular drugs or if you should be wearing a special bracelet that alerts people to your allergy.
How should I store the drug?
Every medication has its own recommended storage condition from room temperature, to refrigerating, to freezing. The majority of medications are recommended to be stored at room temperature, between 59 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit. As a common rule, medications should be stored away from heat, air, light, and moisture.
Oxygen, light, and water are among the substances that humans need to survive. However, those same life-affirming elements can be destructive if they’re present where many people keep their medications, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Here are some ways through which your medication can be stored safely and also remember to Keep all drugs out of reach of children!
- Follow the specific disposal instructions that may be listed on your prescription label. Although you should not flush your medications down the toilet unless directed to do so, the FDA does have a list of medications that can be flushed away.
- Take advantage of your community’s “drug take back” programs. To find out upcoming dates and participating locations, call your county/city government trash and recycling service or your state/local law enforcement.
- Check out this Drug Enforcement Agency link for upcoming dates on National Drug Take Back Days.
- If your medication does not have any specific disposal instructions and there are no available take-back programs near you, you can dispose of them in your household trash:
- Remove or scratch off any personal information on your prescription vial label.
- Do NOT crush tablets or capsules when throwing away.
- Mix your medications with an undesirable substance such as coffee grounds or cat litter. Place this mixture in a plastic, sealable bag or container.
- Ask your local retail pharmacist if his or her company has a drug take back program, such as mail-away envelopes from the “TakeAway Environmental Return System.” Services like these may come with additional fees (note that this is often the only way that many retail pharmacies are permitted to take back unused or expired medications).
Having answered most common questions from our clients, we are still open for more questions if you are looking to get a prescription online. For those who have questions, don’t forget to Contact us and send your questions, our customer service will get to within 24 hours.