Know your medicines – get it right!

by | December 21, 2011

Local survey indicates seniors not using medicines correctly. Here’s what you need to know.

BY: Asst Prof Christine Teng

A survey conducted by the Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore showed that about seven in 10 patients aged 50 and above do not use medicines correctly. The top three medicated-related problems encountered are – not using the medication strictly as prescribed, not knowing about the medication they are using, and showing side effects towards the medication.

Medication plays an important part of managing our health. When you fall sick, your doctor may give you many medications to bring home and manage on your own. If you don’t take your medicines as instructed, they may not work as well or they may even harm your health.

Used appropriately, medications save lives, decrease or cure diseases and improve quality of life. Persons given medications should know important information about the medications prescribed and follow instructions on proper medication use in order to obtain maximum benefits from medications prescribed.


At the doctor’s office

Here are some questions you should be asking your doctor about your medicines. Ask questions and if you need to, write the answers down:

  1. What is the name of the medicine and why am I using it?
  2. What medical condition does this medicine treat?
  3. What time(s) of the day should I take this medicine? How much medicine should I take? Should I take it before or after food?
  4. What should I do if I miss a dose?
  5. How long will it take for this medicine to work? When should I stop using it?
  6. Are there any side effects I should know about? What should I do if I get a side effect?
  7. Can I safely mix this medicine with other remedies, vitamins, and over-the-counter medicines I am taking?
  8. What kind of food, drink or activities should I avoid while on this medicine?

If you have any questions or concerns about your medicines, be sure to ask you doctor or pharmacist for advice. And remember, to get the most out of your medications, it is important to “Know your medicines, (and) get it right!”

** Christine Teng is the president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore. She is an assistant professor at the National University of Singapore and the principal pharmacist (clinical) at Tan Tock Seng Hospital.


SIDEBOX: It is your turn

Now that you have your medicines, it is up to you to take them safely. Here are some tips from the National Institute on Aging in the US that can help:

  • Make a list of all the medicines you take, including over-the-counter products and vitamins and be sure to show your doctor or pharmacist as they will know if there are any drug-condition interactions. For example, if you have high blood pressure or asthma, you could have an unwanted reaction if you take a nasal decongestant.
  • Keep one copy in your medicine cabinet and one in your wallet or handbag. The list should include: The name of each medicine, doctor who prescribed it, reason it was prescribed, amount you take, and time(s) you take it.
  • Read and save in one place all written information that comes with the medicine.
  • Take your medicine in the exact amount and at the time your doctor prescribes.
  • Call your doctor right away if you have any problems with your medicine or if you are worried that it might be doing more harm than good. Your doctor may be able to change your prescription to a different one that will work better for you.
  • Use a memory aid to take your medicines on time. Some people use meals or bedtime as reminders to take their medicine. Other people use charts, calendars and weekly pillboxes. Find a system that works for you.
  • Do not skip doses of medication or take half doses to save money. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist if you can’t afford the prescribed medicine. There may be less costly choices to help with the cost of certain drugs.
  • Avoid mixing alcohol and medicine. Some medicines may not work correctly or may make you sick if taken with alcohol.
  • Take your medicine until it’s finished or until your doctor says it’s okay to stop.
  • Don’t take medicines prescribed for another person or give yours to someone else.
  • Don’t take medicines in the dark. To avoid making a mistake, turn your light on before reaching for your pills.
  • Check the expiration dates on your medicine bottles. Your pharmacist can probably tell you how to safely get rid of medicines you no longer need or that are out-of-date. The pharmacist might be able to dispose them for you.
  • Make sure you store all medicines and supplements out of sight and out of reach of children. And don’t take your medicines in front of young children. They might try to copy you.


(** PHOTO CREDIT: tablet, bjearwicke, stock.xchng)



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