| Tue, Jun 10, 2014 @ 09:00 AM

Ask a Pharmacist: Safety and Your Prescription Drugs

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

medication safetyAnswers to common questions about medications from UnitedHealthcare Medicare and Retirement Chief Pharmacy Officer Mike Anderson, Pharm.D.

Question: What can I do to make sure I’m being safe about my medications?

Answer: Great question! Your safety really is priority #1 for your pharmacist. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when dealing with your prescription drugs and other medications.

  • Be consistent with your pharmacy. Try to use the same pharmacy for all your medications, or limit yourself to one retail and one mail-order pharmacy. This will help your pharmacist know all the prescription drugs you’re taking, so he or she can help identify possible drug interactions.
  • Read, read, read. When you fill a prescription, you should get a medication guide with the medicine itself. Make sure to read it over carefully for information on dosage, frequency and how to take them safely (for example, with or without food). It may also let you know about possible interactions with other drugs, and how to safely store your medication.
  • Store your prescription drugs safely. Keep any prescription drugs in their original bottles, and store them as instructed. Some need to be kept somewhere dry and some need to be refrigerated.Also, safety caps are often easily figured out by children, whom they were intended to protect. So keep your medications out of sight or reach of any child or pet.
  • Keep your prescription drugs to yourself. Don’t ever share medications prescribed for you with anyone else. If a loved one needs help, instead of sharing, make sure they receive medical care.
  • Made a mistake? Reach out. Call your pharmacist or doctor if you miss a dose of your medication, or accidentally take more than is prescribed. If you can’t reach your pharmacist or doctor, and you’re not feeling well, call the Poison Control Center. You can dial 1-800-222-1222 toll-free from anywhere in the U.S., and you’ll be connected.
  • Make a list. Create a complete record of all medications you’re taking (both prescription and over-the-counter) and carry it with you in your purse or wallet. Include how much you’re taking and how often. That way, if you’re at the doctor’s office or pharmacy, you’re ready to talk about possible interactions of any new drug with the ones you’re already taking. Keep your list updated as new medications get added or taken out of your schedule.
  • Do an annual review. At least once a year, put all your medications in a bag and bring them to your doctor. Your annual wellness visit is a great time to check in on your medications with your doctor.  Make sure to include the drugs you’ve been prescribed and anything else you’re taking at home, like vitamins, supplements and other medicines.

This is the first Medicare Made Clear blog post of the ongoing “Ask a Pharmacist” series, addressing common questions about prescription drugs and other medications. Read other articles in this series for more answers to your questions on medication.

For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.


Choosing a Prescription Drug Plan: Download this free Medicare Made Clear guide (PDF). And check out the other free guides on Medicare.

Medicare & You: The U.S. government’s official Medicare handbook, available online.

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