Manage Your Medicines

Managing medicine can be complex. Even more so if you take several medicines, and are treating different conditions.

Managing medicines

These tips will help you safely manage your medicines:

  • Understand the exact dose and timing of each medicine your healthcare provider prescribes. Verify the information with your pharmacist when you have the prescriptions filled.

  • If you go to different healthcare providers for different conditions, it's very important to tell all of them about each medicine you are taking. It may help to carry a list with you at all times. Ask your pharmacist for a medicine wallet card that will help you keep an up-to-date list of your medicines with you. Make sure your pharmacy has a record of all the medicines that you take. This includes any over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, or herbal supplements. Buy all your medicines from the same pharmacy if possible. This lessens the chances of any interactions between your medicines.

  • Tell all your healthcare providers and your pharmacist if you have any allergies or sensitivities so they can also keep that important information in your records. Consider wearing a medical alert bracelet or necklace that identifies your allergies.

  • Write your daily schedule for medicines on a calendar, chart, or your phone or computer. Be sure to update the schedule each time your medicine changes.

  • Consider sharing your medicine list and schedule with your spouse, partner, or a close family member or friend. In an emergency, if you can't communicate, an accurate medicine list would still be available.

  • Follow the schedule exactly, and take the exact dosage prescribed by your healthcare provider. Don't change the dose (take more or less of the medicine) or how often you take your medicine without checking with your healthcare provider.

  • Know whether medicines need to be taken on an empty stomach or with food. 

  • Dietary factors can make a difference in how your medicines work. If you make a big change to your diet (starting a very low-fat or high calcium diet, for example) let your healthcare provider know. Tell your provider about how much alcohol, tea, or caffeine you drink and let them know if you smoke.

  • Use a weekly or daily pill organizer to help make sure that you get the right dose at the right time. Ask at your pharmacy to see what pill organizers are available. Smartphone or computer-based apps may also help. Try putting alerts on your electronic devices if you have trouble remembering to take the medicines.

  • Keep medicines in their original containers—except for those you put in an organizer. The labels contain important information, such as medicine name, dosage, healthcare provider's name, and expiration dates.

  • Medicines should be kept in a dry, cool place (not in the bathroom.)

  • Don't take medicine in the dark, when you are tired, or when you are distracted. You might take the wrong medicine or too much. Ask for help, if needed, to find and take the correct medicine.

  • Alcohol can interact with many different kinds of medicines. Ask your healthcare providers or pharmacist if it's safe to drink alcohol with any prescription or over-the-counter medicine.

  • When children or grandchildren are around, keep medicine containers out of reach, especially those that don't have childproof caps. Never keep medicines in a bathroom cabinet.

  • Never take a medicine that was prescribed for someone else. (See below for cautions about the costs of taking medicines not intended for you.)

  • If your healthcare provider has told you to stop taking a medicine, get rid of it right away. (See below for disposal advice.) Don't keep it for future needs. The cost of having side effects or a medicine interaction if you accidentally take that medicine would be greater than the cost of the medicine.

  • Get rid of a medicine once the expiration date has passed. Ask your pharmacist about any medicine take-back programs in your city. If one isn't available, follow any specific disposal instructions on the medicine label or patient information that comes with the medicine. If no instructions are given, crush and mix medicines with coffee grounds, cat litter, or food scraps. Seal them in a bag or a container (such as a margarine tub or jar) and discard them in the regular trash. There are some medicines that are harmful and could be fatal if accidentally taken by children or anyone else. Opioid pain medicines should be flushed in the toilet. Ask your pharmacist if you aren't sure how to get rid of your medicines. Cross off your name and any identifying information from all medicine bottles before putting them in the trash.

  • Never stop taking a medicine on your own. Always get your healthcare provider's guidance. Some medicines must be stopped slowly to prevent complications.

  • If the medicine is making you feel sick or causing side effects that you find hard to tolerate, talk with your healthcare provider as soon as possible. Don't stop the medicine. The dose can be adjusted or the medicine changed under your provider's instruction.

Online Medical Reviewer: Heather M Trevino BSN RNC
Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Date Last Reviewed: 1/1/2024
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.