Managing Your Prescriptions Safely

Your pharmacist and pharmacy staff play an important role in safe medication use. The pharmacist and pharmacy technicians must understand the physician’s order, enter it accurately into the computer record, identify potential problems with the prescription that the physician may have missed, take the correct drug and strength from the shelf, place the drug in the container and label it.

You are part of that team every time you take your medications. It is important that you double check that you are taking the right dose of the right drug, at the right time, in the correct way. To accomplish this, you need to know as much as possible about your medications. Your pharmacist is available to provide this information. Below are additional tips for medication safety.

When dropping off prescriptions or requesting refills:

  • Tell your pharmacist all the medications and over-the-counter drugs you take – especially those vitamins and herbal remedies purchased at health food or grocery stores, nutrition or smoothie shops. Your pharmacist has references that identify potential drug interactions.
  • Confirm that the computer has your current prescription benefit information, allergies and/or drug intolerances, and phone number.
  • Find out how many refills you can get. Make sure that your physician has provided enough refills until your next visit. Prescriptions and refills are only valid for one year.
  • Call ahead for refills. You should expect to have your refill ready within 24 hours.

When picking up your medications at your pharmacy:

  • Confirm the drug is correct at the pharmacy counter. Compare the instructions given by your physician to the drug name on the pharmacy label.
  • Open the bottle and look at the medications to confirm that the medications are imprinted with the correct drug name and strength. If there is no imprint, ask the pharmacist technician or the pharmacist to show you the bottle from which the medication was dispensed for comparison. Also learn what your medications look like if you take them over a period of time.
  • Liquids usually have a unique scent. Learn to recognize your liquid medications by smell.
  • Confirm the dosage is correct. Compare the instructions given by your physician to the instructions on the pharmacy label.
  • Pediatric medications are at high risk for dosage errors. Most drugs’ dosages are based on weight. Confirm your child’s medication dose with your child’s doctor and/or pharmacist.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor and Pharmacist

  1. What is the name of the medication (brand and generic)?
  2. Why do I need to take this medication?
  3. How should I take the medication?
  4. How long should I take the medication?
  5. Should I expect any side effects and what should I do if they occur?
  6. Will this prescription work safely with the other prescription and over-the-counter medications I take?
  7. Should I avoid alcohol, any other medications, foods, and/or activities?
  8. How do I store the medication?
  9. What if I forget to take this medication?
  10. Are there refills for this prescription and how often should it be refilled?
  11. How long until this medication spoils?
  12. May I have written information about this medication?
  13. How do I know if this medication is working?
  14. If applicable, is it safe to become pregnant or to breastfeed while taking this medication?

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