Taking prescription medication sounds easy. You visit our doctor, get a diagnosis, and her or she writes a prescription for medication to fix whatever ails you.
And for the most part, it is that simple. However, many people make mistakes when it comes to their prescriptions that not only waste time and money, but could also be dangerous. The very thing that is supposed to make you feel better and get healthier can be what makes you even sicker if you don’t take the right precautions.
If you take prescription drugs, take a moment to consider whether you have made (or are making) any of these mistakes. You might just save your own life.
Mistake #1: Not Shopping Around
Everyone knows that prescription drugs are expensive. Americans spend an average of $271 billion on drugs annually, and the average senior takes approximately 35 different medications. While prescription drug insurance does defray the costs for individuals somewhat, most insurers use a tiered system to determine the price of drugs, so that some drugs are still pricey even if you have coverage.
The typical consumer shopping habits contributes to the overall expenditures as well. Most people simply use the closest or most convenient pharmacy to fill their prescriptions, not realizing that the same prescription can cost more or less, depending on where you purchase it. When your doctor prescribes a medication, do your homework. Call around to local pharmacies to ask about the cost or better yet, purchase medications from a trusted online pharmacyinstead. Online pharmacies, especially those located in Canada, often offer the same medications as your local drugstores for a fraction of the cost. So before you fill your next prescription, take some time to do your homework — it might save you a substantial amount of cash.
Mistake #2: Not Checking Your Medication
When you take your medication, are you sure you’re taking the right thing? According to consumer watchdog group Institute for Safe Medication Practices, as many as one in 20 prescriptions are filled incorrectly. Labeling errors, misread labels, miscounting and even factory errors are usually the culprit, but regardless of the reason, the results can be disastrous. Many pharmacies are addressing this problem by including medication descriptions (size, shape, and color) on labels and in instructional leaflets. Double check that the medication you receive is the same one that your doctor prescribed before you leave the pharmacy, and correct any necessary errors. If you order online, check when the package arrives; if there is a problem, contact the pharmacy immediately to determine the right corrective action.
Mistake #3: Not Following the Instructions
Medications are most effective when they are used exactly as prescribed. That means taking them at the proper time, the same time each day, with water (or food), and for as long as prescribed. Does that mean that you miss your medication time by a few minutes it won’t work? No. However, if you take your medication erratically, or neglect to have a meal or snack with it when recommended, you could be diluting its effectiveness or even causing unpleasant side effects. Your doctor will most likely provide dosing instructions, and your pharmacist will give you a rundown of instructions in addition to including a leaflet with the medication that advises you on how to take your medicine properly. Follow those instructions closely, and if you have questions or trouble, talk to your doctor.
Mistake #4: Not Telling Your Doctor About All of Your Medications
When you visit your doctor, he or she will ask you about the medications you’re taking. It’s important that you be up front about everything that you are taking, including over-the-counter medications and herbal supplements. Even something as relatively innocuous as ibuprofen can interact with certain prescription drugs. Drug interactions can do everything from cause minor side effects to serious, life-threatening illness, so being thorough when speaking with your provider is important. Try keeping a list of the drugs you’re taking, including dosages and how often, in your smartphone for easy access. Remember also that you should check with your provider before you start taking any medication when you are on prescription medications.
Mistake #5: Not Properly Storing or Disposing Drugs
The medicine cabinet might seem like a logical place to store medications, but the heat and moisture of the bathroom can actually be detrimental to your drugs. The best place to store medication that doesn’t call for refrigeration is in a closet or cupboard outside of the bathroom. Remember to keep all medication out of reach of children, and if you have narcotics or other control substances, consider investing in a locking cabinet or box to keep the medications from falling into the wrong hands.
While most prescriptions call for you to take all of the pills or liquid until it’s gone (and it’s important to follow that instruction) if you have leftover medication, pay attention to expiration dates. Taking expired medication, even accidentally, can be dangerous. Never throw away pills or flush them down the sink or toilet; many communities sponsor medication disposal drives, or you can contact your pharmacy for instructions.
Avoiding these common medication mistakes can save you time and money — and even your health. Take precautions to ensure that you use, store and dispose your medication correctly, and your prescriptions will be the beneficial tools they are meant to be.