The top tip for safe medication use? Follow the instructions. It sounds obvious, but the reality is that 50% of Canadians don’t take their medications as prescribed. In fact, taking medication improperly causes 10% of all hospital admissions, and in the case of seniors, it’s 25%, according to the Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists
Taking drugs as prescribed helps you get optimal benefits and reduces the risk of side effects.
For each prescription, make sure you understand:
• What the medication is for
• What dosage to take and how many doses per day
• What time(s) to take your medication
• How to take the medication
• What drug or food interactions to avoid
• How to store the medication safely
• What to do if you miss a dose
• What to do if you experience side effects
Depending on the medication, your doctor or pharmacist might give you special instructions to keep in mind (and look for warning stickers on your pill bottles or packages). For example:
• Take it with food
• Take it on an empty stomach
• Drink plenty of water
• Avoid grapefruit or dairy products
• Avoid certain activities, such as driving or operating heavy machinery, due to drowsiness
It’s essential to tell your doctor and pharmacist if you’re taking any supplements, over-the-counter drugs or herbal remedies, as they may affect how your prescribed medications work.
If you have questions about your treatment plan, ask your pharmacist if you would benefit from a medication review. At this one-on-one consultation (he or she will help you understand the different medications and identify any potential issues, such as drug interactions. At the end of the review, you’ll receive a complete list of your medications.
You may qualify to have your medication review funded by the provincial government – ask your pharmacist.