Have you ever wanted to ask a question about your medicine? But maybe you thought it was a silly question that was not worth bothering your healthcare provider about. Below are answers to some common questions you may have about your medicine. Always talk with your healthcare provider about taking, storing, and disposing of your specific medicines.
Q: I’m experiencing a symptom that I think may be caused by my medicine. Can I take less of it?
A: You should never change the amount of medicine you take or stop taking it unless your healthcare provider tells you to do so. If you think your medicine is causing a symptom or side effect, let your healthcare provider know. He or she can then decide the best way to manage it. For example, your healthcare provider may adjust the dose. In other cases, taking a different medicine may help.
You may also report any medication side effects to FDA MedWatch or directly to the manufacturer of the medicine.
Q: My prescription medicine is not making me feel better. Can I take more?
A: Never change how much medicine you take unless you are told to do so by your healthcare provider. Medicines do not always work the same for everyone, so tell your healthcare provider if you are not feeling better.
Q: I ran out of refills for my prescription. Can I stop taking my medicine?
A: Only your healthcare provider can tell you if you no longer need to take a medicine. In some cases, your healthcare provider may need to see you before he or she writes a prescription for more refills. It’s also important to note that stopping some medicines too soon can cause health problems. For these reasons, it’s best to schedule and keep your appointments with your healthcare provider before you run out of refills.
Q: I feel better. Do I still need to take my medicine?
A: You should not stop taking a prescription medicine before your healthcare provider wants you to stop. You may not get well as soon as you could or you might not stay well if you stop taking your medicine too early.
Q: I don’t feel sick when I forget to take my medicine. Does this mean I don’t really need it?
A: Not necessarily. Many illnesses may not always have symptoms you notice. Some examples are high blood pressure, early glaucoma, and high cholesterol. In fact, if you have one of these conditions, you may not have even known about it until your healthcare provider told you. This means that if you miss a dose of your medicine, you might not feel a difference. Still, you do need the medicine your healthcare provider prescribed unless he or she determines otherwise.
If you do not take care of your medical conditions, you may have more health problems in the future. For example, uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart failure, heart attack, or kidney failure. Or if you do not take medicine to control glaucoma, your eyesight may get worse. Always talk with your healthcare provider before you stop taking your medicine.
Q: What should I do if I forget to take my medicine?
A: For each medicine you are prescribed, it is important that you talk with your healthcare provider about what to do if you miss a dose. There may be specific instructions for different medicines that he or she will be aware of.
Q: Where should I store my medicine?
A: Keep your medicine in its original container and store it in a cool, dry place. In a dresser drawer, in a storage box, or on a closet shelf are usually good places. Heat, light, air, and moisture can damage your medicine, so it’s not recommended that you store your medicine in the bathroom. If you keep your medicine in a kitchen cabinet, be sure to keep it away from the stove, sink, or hot appliances. Your pharmacist can tell you if there are any special storage instructions for your medicine, such as refrigeration.
Remember to store all medicines where children (and pets) can’t see or reach them. Lock any cabinet or drawer where you keep your medicine.
Q: How long can I save medicine in case I need to take it again later?
A: You should never save medicine unless you have talked about it with your healthcare provider. Even if you think you have the same illness as before, it may be different. The old medicine may no longer be the best medicine for you. Only your healthcare provider should decide which medicine you should take.
Q: My medicine recently expired. Can I still take it?
A: No. Medicines have expiration dates on their labels for a reason. A medicine that has expired may not work as well as it should and may no longer be safe to take. Be sure to check the expiration date on the label. If it has passed, do not take the medicine. Instead, dispose of it through a medicine take-back program, or in the household trash as an alternative, unless it has specific instructions for disposal. More information about disposing of medicines is available.
Caroline Pak, PharmD, is a pharmacist and the Medical Editor-in-Chief for Get Healthy Stay Healthy at Pfizer Inc.