Minimizing Risks from Medications

Whether prescription or over-the-counter (OTC), no medicine is without risk. Besides benefits, medicines may cause side effects, allergic reactions, and interactions with foods, drinks, or other drugs.

For prescription drugs, a patient's first step to safe and effective treatment is to ask the doctor questions with each new prescription.

  • What is the medicine's name, and what is it supposed to do?
  • How and when do I take it, and for how long?
  • While taking this medicine, should I avoid:
  • certain foods or dietary supplements
  • caffeine, alcohol, or other beverages
  • other medicines, prescription and OTC
  • certain activities, such as driving or smoking?
  • Will this new medicine work safely with prescription and OTC medicines I'm already taking?
  • Are there side effects, and what do I do if they occur?
  • Will the medicine affect my sleep or activity level?
  • What should I do if I miss a dose?
  • Is there written information available about the medicine?

It's wise to write down the answers to these questions immediately, to make sure you'll remember all the details.

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