Dos and Don’ts of Managing Your Medication
Negative reactions to medications, or adverse drug events, cause 700,000 emergency department visits and 120,000 hospitalizations in the United States each year. Researchers expect these numbers will grow as new drugs are developed, the population ages, and coverage for and use of medication changes.
The good news: Many adverse drug reactions are preventable—if you know how to manage your medications.
We spoke with Lisa Taylor, MD, primary care physician with Beth Israel Deaconess HealthCare, to get her best advice on making the most of your medication and managing it well.
Who should be concerned about managing medication?
Everyone. Medications are not naturally occurring things. They are very effective, but they are powerful and can be dangerous. The more you take, the greater the risk of side effects or negative reactions. Take only what you need, and if you need a medication—take it.
What are your best medication management tips?
- Take medicines exactly as prescribed—don’t decide to take more or less. Pay attention to how you feel and let your doctor know about side effects.
- Learn all you can about your medications. Familiarize yourself with the information from your pharmacist when you get a prescription; don’t be scared by the list of side effects.
- Don’t take medication prescribed for anyone else—not even a family member. No two people are just alike—your doctor considers your other health conditions, medication, and concerns when prescribing treatment for you.
- Pay attention with over the counter (OTC) medication and supplements too. Talk to your pharmacist or doctor before you take an OTC medicine if you take other drugs to be sure there will be no negative reaction.
- Brown bag it: Take all of your medications, supplements and regular OTC medicines in a bag with you when you visit your primary care physician so your doctor can monitor your medicine intake.
- Stick to one pharmacy: Have the same pharmacy fill all your prescriptions as an added safety measure. Your pharmacist can also pay attention for any potential adverse effects and alert you.
What do I need to know about the medication I take?
For each medicine you take, you should know what it is for and what to look out for—what side effects there could be. As always, keep your doctor informed so we can help you protect your health. That means telling us if you are concerned about the cost of your medicine too—there may be ways we can make the right treatment affordable for you.
I always tell my patients to make a list of all the medications they take (prescription and over the counter) and carry it in their wallet. The “brown bag” is great during a visit but if they are in the unfortunate situation where they cannot speak for themselves it can be life-saving.
 http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/ppt/nchs2012/SS-31_ALBRIGHT.pdf, 2.19.14