Medicine Safety

Your health care is a team effort, and you are an important member of the team. You and your family can help prevent medicine errors. One of the most important things you can do to make your medicine use safe is to ask questions.

The doctors, nurses and pharmacists have major roles in safe medicine use. It is their job to select the medicine that is best for you. They will talk with you about what you need to know about your medicine. This often includes the medicine name, dose, when to take the medicine, side effects and interactions with foods and other medicines.

Proper Medication Disposal


Learn the right way to get rid of expired or no-longer-needed medicine.

Here are some things you can do to ensure safe medicine use for you and your family.

  • Your doctors need information about your medicine to make sure new prescriptions don’t cause problems. (We call this medication reconciliation.)
  • Make and carry a list of all medicine with the dose you take. Include all prescription medicine as well as any over-the-counter medicine, vitamins and herbal supplements. Show the medicine list to your doctor and nurse at each appointment.
  • Tell your doctors and nurses about any allergies you have, or bad reactions you had to medicine in the past.

You can help make sure you get the right medicine at the right time while you are here.

  • Don’t let anyone give you a medicine without asking your name and birth date (or checking your ID bracelet).
  • When a nurse gives you a medicine, ask what it is. This can prevent accidental mix-ups.
  • Speak up if something doesn’t seem right – for example, if a medicine looks different, or the routine changes.

If you have symptoms from medicines, contact the prescribing doctor or nurse.

  • Your medicine might change when your appointment or program ends.
  • A complete list of your medicine (including prescription and over-the counter medicine) will be given to you before you leave. Review this with your doctor or nurse.
  • Ask if you take your usual medicine in addition to the new ones. Don’t discontinue a medicine or change the dose without talking with your doctor. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist before combining over-the-counter and prescription medicine.
  • Learn what medicine you are taking. Ask what it does, how and when you should take it and what to do if you miss a dose. Ask about side effects and what you should do if you have them. Ask if there are medicine interactions with any foods and other medicines you are taking.
  • If you develop itching or swelling, or if you have trouble breathing after taking a new medicine, get medical help right away.
  • If you have symptoms or other side effects from medicine, contact the prescribing doctor or nurse.

This information is provided to you as an educational service of LUNG LINE®.  It is not meant to be a substitute for consulting with your own physician.


This information has been approved by Rafeul Alam, MD, PhD (December 2011).

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