This Issue

Medication Safety: The dos and don’ts of prescription drugs

Easy access belies over-the-counter drugs’ health risks

Medicine: A lifeline — when used correctly

Flu facts & tips

Q & A

A closer look

Ask questions. You’re the one who suffers the consequences if you don’t.

  1. What is the name (brand and generic) of the medicine?
    What is it for?

  2. What’s the dose?

  3. How do I take it and how often?

  4. What food, drinks or other medicines should I avoid
    while taking this medicine?

  5. What are the possible side effects?
    What should I do if I have side effects?

  6. What should I do if I miss a dose or accidentally
    take more than the recommended dose?

  7. When will the medicine start working?

  8. Is there any written information I can take home with me?

Ask questions. You’re the one who suffers the consequences if you don’t

Take all of this …
Antibiotics are prescribed for bacterial infections, such as pneumonia and strep throat, but are not effective against viruses, like the common cold or the flu. It is important to finish your medicine even if you feel better. If an antibiotic is stopped prematurely, the bacteria may not be completely killed, which can increase their resistance to the antibiotic. This can result in a re-infection of now resistant bacteria.
… but not too much of this
Acetaminophen is a common and effective pain reliever and fever reducer. Many people are unaware, however, that acetaminophen is found in many prescription pain relievers as well as numerous over-the-counter products to treat cold and allergy symptoms and menstrual cramps. The maximum daily dose — from all sources — is 4,000 milligrams. Use caution when taking two or more drugs that contain acetaminophen. Excessive use can result in liver damage.

For a detailed list of products that contain acetaminophen, visit

A double take

Take all of this … but not too much of this

Help your doctor help you …
… and keep a headache diary

In order to pinpoint your type of headache, which will help to diagnose and treat it correctly, pay close attention when it surfaces.

Keep track of:

  • the date of each headache
  • the time it started and the time it ended
  • type of pain and intensity on a scale of 1 to 10
  • where the pain is centered
  • foods and beverages you had during the last day
  • amount of sleep and caffeine
  • stress level
  • any sensitivity to light, sound or odors
  • the date of your menstrual cycle if you are female
  • weather conditions
  • type of treatment and its effect
  • your thoughts and actions shortly before the pain began

Discuss any frequent headaches with your doctor, who can recommend appropriate treatment.

Call your doctor immediately if you experience a very severe, sudden, or explosive headache (especially after a head injury or if your headache is accompanied by stiff neck and fever, weakness, or difficulty speaking or seeing, which could signal more serious problems, such as meningitis or stroke).

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A closer look

Before you leave the
drug store, get the facts.

Read the drug label to make sure the prescription is
yours and matches the one written by your provider.

A double take

There are checks and balances to prevent prescription errors, but slip ups can occur.
Take a second look to make sure you get the right medicine.

The look-alikes

Institute for Safe Medication Practices

Although the packaging is similar, these drugs are very different. The medicine on the left treats seizures and nerve pain, while the medicine on the right is for high cholesterol.

Illegible handwriting

The doctor ordered medicine for attention deficit disorder, but because of illegible handwriting, the prescription was filled for methadone, a medication for the treatment of narcotic withdrawal and dependence. That is why you should always ask the pharmacist what the medicine is for.

Food and Drug Administration

Can’t judge a book by its cover

These three medicines are actually the same — they all are prescribed for manic-depression and seizure disorders. However, the looks of drugs can differ by the company that manufactures them. If you’re used to getting the pink pill but get salmon instead, just confirm the identity of the pill with the pharmacist.