When You’re Taking Medications


No one likes to take medications. They may be difficult to swallow. They may be inconvenient. They may be unaffordable. They may cause side effects…some minor, some major. In rare instances, they may cause serious adverse effects. The reality is, however, that there are times in our lives when medication is not merely beneficial, but essentially life saving.  At these times, if we want to live, we must take them.


Today, most health care consumers have their own primary physician. Along with that care provider, it is not unusual for consumers to also be treated by a variety of other health care professionals. Each member of your health care team has your best interests at heart. However, unless each one of your providers is in the same organizational network, they will not have access to your past health information and medical records. That means that the provider will be depending on you to provide them with all of your past and current information, including a complete list of medications you are currently taking, along with their dose and times taken and any drug allergies you might have. It is critical that you provide all members of your health care team with your current medication information.

How can you do this?

The best way to do this this is by completing the PatientAction.com online Health History form and bringing it with you whenever you go to the doctor. You can also make a list of such information and keep it in your wallet or bring all of your medicine containers with you when you visit your doctors.   If you travel and take a lot of medications, you may want to keep a list of drugs (and doses) with you in case you need to seek out unexpected health care while traveling. It is critical for each one of your health care providers to know what prescription medications, herbs, vitamins, supplements, and over-the-counter drugs you are currently taking. Each prescribed medication has a specific therapeutic reaction in your body.  But medicines are chemicals. When taken together, the combination of such chemicals can cause undesirable body reactions. At times, these reactions are just a nuisance. At other times, they cause grave illness and even death. Two or more medications taken together increase your chance for suffering from drug side effects. When a 2nd drug is added to your drug therapy, that can have a profound affect on your body. Once your provider has your drug information, s/he can be careful not to prescribe a new medication that might negatively interact with the current medicines you are taking.


If you have ever had any kind of reaction to a medication in the past, you need to tell your doctor! And you need to document it in your online Health History form so that it can be shared with every health care provider you see for the rest of your life!


There are generic drugs that you can take today that are much cheaper than the brand name drugs. Health insurance companies like when you use generic drugs. It saves them lots of money! It saves you lots of money! Your doctor will not always prescribe generic drugs. Whenever s/he writes you a prescription, ask if you can get the generic brand. Your doctor may not want you to take the generic brand. Ask why not. Generic brands have the same active ingredient, but the fillers are different and may not be suitable for you. If you have faith in your doctor, trust him or her on this decision.


Your doctor is your first line of defense to make sure that your drug therapy is appropriate and safe for you. But s/he can only do that if s/he knows every drug that you are on and any past drug reactions that you may have experienced. The second line of defense is your Pharmacist. The best thing you can do to protect yourself when you take a lot of medications, is to use the same pharmacy. All of your medications will be documented in the pharmacy computer and they will be able to tell immediately if a new prescribed drug is contraindicated with your current drug therapy. The third line of defense is YOU! Know what drugs you are on. Check them before leaving the pharmacy to make sure you were given the right prescription (Pharmacists do make mistakes!). Take advantage of the counseling that your pharmacist offers. Ask questions. Ask about the medications the nurse in the hospital hands you. You have a voice. Use it!


Steven’s doctor prescribed a medication that was potentially damaging to the liver. When the wife expressed concern about those damaging effects, Steven’s doctor explained why he thought the benefits of the drug outweighed any potential risks. Based on the doctor’s explanation and recommendation, Steve decided to take the risk. All went well and Steven responded to the medication without any problems.

I had a total abdominal hysterectomy in 2001. I made the choice not to take estrogen replacement afterwards. My gynecologist suggested that I start taking one low dose aspirin everyday after my surgery to protect me from a post-menopausal low-estrogen related heart attack. I took that aspirin every day until March 2010   when I casually asked my husband’s cardiologist about the dose of aspirin I was taking to see if he thought it was enough to protect me. He told me that unless I had heart disease or a strong family history of heart disease, he didn’t feel that I should be taking any aspirin at all! His feeling was that most post-menopausal women don’t have fatal heart attacks. But, given the fact that aspirin works as a ” blood thinner “, the risk for my having a catastrophic stroke from taking the aspirin was far greater than the risk of suffering a mild heart attack from not taking it. Because I trusted him and deeply valued the care that he has been providing to my husband, I stopped talking the daily aspirin. I do plan on having a conversation about this with my Primary Doctor and Gynecologist when I go for my annual wellness visits this summer. “ I have a voice. I am using it!

My husband picked up a prescription at our local pharmacy. Before leaving the pharmacy, he opened up the bag and inspected the prescription. He saw that the pills were a different color than usual. He questioned the pharmacist who realized that the pharmacist had pulled the incorrect dose. ” You have a voice… Use it!

Our son, Phil, was given sleeping pills by a well-intentioned new doctor during one of many hospital admissions. Within 20 minutes, Phil started having horrific side effects and the doctor said he was having an extreme sensitivity to the drug. The family saw this as a blessing rather than something bad. Along with that same doctor, we reviewed all of the medication that Phil was on. Several drugs were changed and some were deleted.   It took Phil 48 hours to recover from the side effects. No, we did not sue the doctor! The doctor’s intent was to do no harm. What we did do was document that drug sensitivity so that we would be sure to share it with every new provider that Phil visits for the rest of his life. That has become our family’s responsibility as we advocate for our son. You can’t expect each doctor you visit to know what drugs you are on unless they themselves have prescribed it. ” This is your child. You have a voice…Use it!

My husband, Barry’s, mail order drug company called us. One of his prescription drugs which cost us $87.50 for a 90 day supply had just became available in the generic form. They asked him if he wanted to take the generic which would be $20 for a 90 day supply or to stay with the brand name which was increasing in price to $227 for that same 90 day supply. We asked them to call the doctor who had prescribed the brand name medication to see if it was OK to switch to the generic. The doctor approved of switching the medication to a generic form. We will be saving $207 per month! You have a voice… use it!


Brand Name Drugs:

Drugs that have been created & named by pharmaceutical companies; when they are first produced, they have a patent prohibiting other pharmaceutical companies from replicating it under another name.

Generic Drugs:

Drugs that are produced after the patent on brand name drugs expire. They have the same active ingredient(s) as brand names.

Over-The-Counter Drugs (OTCs):

Drugs that can be bought right off the shelf without a provider’s prescription.

Prescription Medications:

Drugs that are prescribed by a licensed health care provider. They cannot be bought over the counter at your drug store. You must have a prescription

Side Effects:

Minor to severe reactions to drug therapy that are not unusual. Effects usually go away in a short time when the drug is discontinued.

Untoward Effects:

Serious consequences of drug therapy that can make the patient quite ill. Effects may not go away with discontinuation of therapy. Less common than side effects.

” Pediatric Medication Safety ” – 4:16 minutes

” Medication Safety ” – 2:36 minutes

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