Lifesaving advice on taking medications

Approximately 10,000 deaths a year in Canada are thought to occur outside hospitals due to the wrong drug, dosage errors and adverse reactions to medications. Following a few simple rules when getting a prescription filled at the pharmacy can help you avoid this fate. Here are things you need to know when taking medications.

Lifesaving advice on taking medications

If you receive a prescription

When you receive a medication, ask your pharmacist these questions:

  • What is the name of the medicine? How do you spell it?
  • What is it for?
  • How should I take it?
  • What side effects can it cause?
  • Will it interact with other drugs or supplements I take?

Liquid medication

If you receive a liquid medication, ask your pharmacist for the best way to measure a dose. Getting a precise amount of medicine is important, but research shows that many people make mistakes when measuring doses.

  • For example, if you need five millilitres (one teaspoon) of a medication, don't measure it with a spoon from your kitchen drawer; most household teaspoons don't hold the exact amount you need.

Have a good pharmacist

Find a good pharmacy — and stick with it. Always buying your medications from the same pharmacy will reduce the risk of receiving the wrong drug. A pharmacist will be better able to spot a potential drug interaction if he or she has your complete pharmaceutical records.

Read labels

Make sure you understand the medicine label. Instructions for taking a medication can be confusing; ask the pharmacist to explain anything that isn't clear.

Look inside the bag

Be sure the drug you've been handed is the one your doctor prescribed. When you go to the pharmacy, take along the name of the medication.

Take your medicine

Drugs don't work if you don't take them. It sounds awfully obvious, yet there are plenty of patients who fail to take their medications as prescribed or quit taking them altogether. While drugs can cause serious side effects, more than two-thirds of medication-related hospitalizations occur because patients didn't take the drugs prescribed for them. Some stop taking needed medications because they misunderstand a doctor's instructions, fear side effects, simply forget or don't think the drug is working. If you're having a problem with a drug you've been prescribed, tell your doctor. Taking your meds the way you're supposed to could mean the difference between life and death.

These rules seem simple and they are. However missing out on one them could lead to dire consequences so always be vigilant.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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