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Medicare and Prescription Drug Labels

October 6, 2016

If you’re taking any prescription medications, you might want to make sure you understand what you’re taking, how it will help your health condition, and what you can expect while you’re on this medication.

When your doctor prescribes medication, don’t be afraid to ask questions. By sharing your concerns and questions, you become better informed about the purpose, use and possible side effects of the medication.  You are also better prepared to guard against potential mistakes. Listed below are some other medication safeguards from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

  • Know the name of the prescription medication you’re taking and whether it’s the brand-name or generic equivalent.
  • Understand the effect your medication is supposed to have on your health and what kind of results you’re expected to see. Conversely, understand the potential for side effects and what to look for. Discuss with your doctor and/or pharmacist what you should do and who to contact if you begin experiencing side effects.
  • Ask about the prescription dosage and understand how often, what time of day, and for how long you’re expected to take it.
  • Make sure you know whether it matters if you take the prescription drug with food or on an empty stomach.
  • Ask what you should do if you miss a dose (or take too much at one time).
  • Consumer Reports points out that the insert that often accompanies a prescription package generally includes a physical description of the medication. For example, it might say “This is a round white tablet inscribed with the letters….” Always make sure your medication matches the description.
  • Be alert to certain foods, drinks, or other medications that should not be taken with your medication. You can find this information either on the label or on an insert. It’s generally a good idea to ask your doctor and/or pharmacist about these restrictions, however, so that you know for certain what you should avoid taking while on the medication.
  • Make sure you understand the correct dosage. Don’t take more (or less) of a medication than your doctor prescribed unless he or she instructs you to do so. Consult your physician or pharmacist before cutting prescribed pills to ensure doing so will not cause stomach irritation or other adverse effects.
  • Take the medication as prescribed. Do not discontinue a medication or modify the frequency with which you take the medication without consulting your doctor.
  • It’s generally in your best interest to make your doctor, health-care providers, and pharmacist aware of all medications you’re taking, both over-the-counter and prescription. Tell your doctors and pharmacist if you’re allergic to any medications. Also note if you have any chronic conditions or other health problems that may create complications for you.
  • If you believe there is a mistake on the prescription drug label or if something doesn’t seem right about your instructions, call your pharmacist or doctor immediately. If it’s after business hours when you notice something amiss, you may still be able to ask someone. Your pharmacy may be open late, and your doctor’s voicemail or website may have after-hours contact information.

The greater awareness you have about the medications you’re taking, the less likely you’ll be to miss potential medication label errors.

This article is for informational purposes only. Nothing on this website should ever be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. You should always consult with your medical provider regarding diagnosis or treatment for a health condition, including decisions about the correct medication for your condition, as well as prior to undertaking any specific exercise or dietary routine.