Published on March 01, 2019

Q&A: Mind your medications

Helen ThorpeMedicine is meant to help you feel better, not worse. But a lot can go wrong if you don’t understand your medicine—and how to take it safely.

Helen Thorpe, MD, a family practice doctor at Mercy Primary Care at Rhawn Street, answers key questions about medicines and the knowledge you need to help protect your health.

Q. What should I know when my doctor prescribes a medicine?

Make sure you understand the answers to these questions: What is the name of the medicine, and what is it for? How much do I take, and when should I take it? What are possible side effects, and what should I do if I have any? Is there anything I shouldn’t eat or drink when I take this medicine? Will it cause problems if I take this drug with other medicines? What should I do if I forget to take a dose?

Q. What should I keep in mind when taking over-the-counter medicines?

Always read the printed directions and warnings—and follow them. Know what you’re taking too. Review the ingredients in over-the-counter medications, and choose products that have fewer items listed. Also check the expiration date. A medicine’s effectiveness wears off over time.

Q. What else will help me take my medicines safely?

Make a list of all the medicines you take, plus vitamins or supplements. Keep it handy—say, in your wallet or stored in your phone. And discuss your list whenever you see your doctor. That will help your doctor spot the possibility of dangerous interactions, duplicate medicines or a dose that needs changing.