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Be smart with prescription medicines

Tips on how to get the most out of them.

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Prescription medicines play a big role in helping people stay healthy and enjoy life. But for your medicines to work well, they need a key ingredient: you. How and when you take them and what else you’re taking can make all the difference.

Here are some tips to help you be smart and get the most out of your medicines.

 

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Read the label on the prescription bottle.

If anything isn’t clear, ask your doctor or pharmacist. (Worried you’ll sound stupid? Here’s a secret: it’s smart to ask questions.) In the end, it's important that you understand how to take your medicines. 

Don’t know what questions to ask? See “What to ask your doctor about your medicines” below.
 

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Talk to your doctor about your medicines.

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Take your medicines exactly the way the label says.

This is for your safety, as well as helping you heal. If the directions don’t make sense to you, speak up. Your doctor can give you directions that work for you. 
 

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Thinking about stopping? Don’t. Talk to your doctor first.

Some people may think that if they start to feel better, they can stop. For some medicines, you could be stopping too early. You could undo all the good they’ve done for you. 

Other medicines may not change how you feel. But they’re doing important work to keep you healthy. 

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Never skip a dose.

Some people may skip a pill here and there to save money. Others might not like how they feel after taking the medicine. This is called a “side effect.”

Whatever the problem, talk to your doctor first. There may be other medicines that cost less or have fewer side effects. Or there may be programs to help you pay for your medicines. Your doctor can help. All you need to do is ask. 

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Make sure your doctor knows about everything you’re taking.

This includes vitamins and supplements. It also includes aspirin and other medicines you can buy without a prescription. They can get in the way of your medicines doing their job.

Bring a list of all your medicines to your doctor's visit. Your doctor will check each one to make sure everything is working together.
 

Tell your doctor if you’re worried about anything.

Maybe a friend took the same medicine and didn’t like it. Or someone on TV said it had problems.

Don’t let worry get in the way of getting healthy. Talk to your doctor. Get the real story about what works for you, not someone else.
 

Need a refill?

It’s important that you don’t run out of your medicines. Your doctor can help make sure you have any refills you need. This includes prescriptions for a three-month supply or home delivery.

Remember, your doctor is here to help and to listen. Helping you understand and feel good about taking care of yourself is what’s most important.
 

What to ask your doctor about your medicines.

Confused about a medicine you're taking, but don't know what to ask? Here are some questions to help you get started:

  • What is the name of the medicine? Why am I taking it?
  • What medical problem is it for?
  • How many times a day should I take it? At what times?
  • How much medicine should I take?
  • Should I take the medicine with food or not? Is there anything I shouldn’t eat or drink when I take this medicine?
  • How long will it take this medicine to work?
  • Will this medicine cause problems if I’m taking other medicines?
  • Is it safe for me to drive while taking this medicine?
  • What does “as needed” mean?
  • When should I stop taking the medicine?
  • If I forget to take my medicine, what should I do?
  • What side effects can I expect? What should I do if I have a problem?
  • Will I need a refill? How do I arrange that?
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The information provided is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for professional health care. You should consult an appropriate health care professional for your specific needs.