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Medicine Safety

Health NewsWhen we're feeling sick or hurt, medicine can be the cure for what ails us. But medications are not without potential risks. Depending on their active ingredients, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns they can cause side effects, trigger allergic reactions (Read about "Allergies") or interact with other medications, either prescription or over-the-counter. (Read about "Drug Interaction Precautions") Medicines can even interact with foods or drinks, particularly alcohol, that we consume.

Medical Information Form Because of this, it's important to talk with your doctor and pharmacist before taking medications. Our MEDICAL HISTORY FORM can help. This form contains the type of information your doctor needs to determine if there will be any potential problems with medications he/she may prescribe.

Simply click on the link for the form. You can fill out this form online and either save it or print it. To save, click the "Save" icon, name the form, and save to either your computer hard drive, other storage device. To print, use the "Print" button. The information you enter will NOT be saved anywhere else once the window is closed. This is to protect your privacy. When you're done, simply close the form window and continue using our site.

The form can help you tell your doctor about specifics in your medical history that are important. In addition to the form, since it's not always easy to remember exactly what's been said in a doctor's office, you might want to consider bringing a pad and pencil with you, to jot down the answers to your questions.

Here are some of the important questions the FDA says you can ask about any medication, either prescription or over-the-counter:

Even if you've taken this medication before, you should still check with your doctor to make sure nothing has been changed. That's an especially good idea as we get older, since age can change the way our bodies are affected by medications. (Read about "Taking Medicine")

More safety tips

According to the FDA, between 30 and 50 percent of people using medicine are not using them exactly as prescribed. One of the biggest reasons is lack of information. Although some patients may be nervous about asking so many questions, it's important to remember that medications are potent and avoiding mix-ups should be a main priority.

Here are some other tips from the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).

Another concern is what is called pill splitting. Sometimes it costs the same to buy a supply of a medication that is 40mg as one that is 20mg. Patients then sometimes cut the pill in half, saving themselves money. The Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) says that can be dangerous. Not all medications are safe to take after they have been split. Some are coated to be long-acting or to protect the stomach. ISMP recommends that you consult your doctor on your medication. If the doctor decides the pill can be safely split, have the doctor write the prescription to reflect that, "Take 1/2 tab daily." You should consider having the pharmacist cut the pills for you. ISMP says cutting the pill to less than half is not a good idea since each cut makes the dosage less accurate.

Make sure you follow the doctor's and pharmacist's advice on storing the medicine too. A cool, low-humidity area, away from children's reach, is most often advised; however, don't place medicines in the refrigerator unless instructed to do so. (Read about "Your Medicine Cabinet")

It's also essential that if any unusual symptoms develop while taking medication, you contact your doctor right away. However, if you do start to develop unusual symptoms, experts advise against deciding to stop taking a medication on your own; ask your doctor first.

Finally, if you miss a dose of the medicine, ask your doctor what to do. Don't assume that you can just take double the dosage next time to make up for the missed medication.

Over-the-counter

If you do decide to use an over-the-counter medication AAFP says keep the following in mind:

Online drug warnings

There are now hundreds of places online where you can buy medications. There are a number of things you should think about, according to the FDA, if you buy medical products online.

As always, talk to your healthcare professional before using any medications for the first time. Remember, medicines can contain powerful ingredients, so it's always a good idea to let a qualified healthcare professional advise you on the best way to use it.

Related Information:

    Anaphylaxis

    Children & Prescriptions

    Medication and Digestion

All Concept Communications material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.

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By printing and/or reading this article, you agree that you accept all terms and conditions of use, as specified online.