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A component of the Canadian Medication Incident Reporting and Prevention System (CMIRPS).

Medication Safety Alerts

Safe Practices for Medication Use (Take Charge of Your Medicines!)

Are you taking charge of your medicines? If not, you could be putting your health at risk. Proper medication administration is a multi-tier effort that includes you and your health care team. Knowing about the medicines you take today could save you a lot of grief tomorrow.

To take charge of your medicines, be sure to do the following:

  1. Make a list of every medication you take, including over-the-counter medications and supplements. Keep the list with you at all times and show the list to your doctor, nurse, pharmacist or other healthcare professional any time you receive health care. Useful forms and a wallet card are available on the "It's Safe to Ask" site of the Manitoba Institute for Patient Safety.
  2. Before taking any new medicine, check with your pharmacist to be sure it won't interact with something else you are taking. This is important even for medicines that you buy without a prescription. Even natural products, like herbal remedies, could interact with your medication.
  3. Try to use one pharmacy for all your medication needs. This way, the pharmacist can keep track of your medications and check for interactions.
  4. Never share your prescribed medication with someone else, and never take someone else's prescription medication.
  5. Avoid confusion — leave all medicines in their original containers.
  6. Keep your medicines in a cool, dry place — not the bathroom. Medicines can be affected by temperature and moisture.
  7. Check expiration dates. Potency may be affected in expired drugs and certain expired medications can be harmful to your health.
  8. Whenever you get a new prescription, be sure that you understand all the important information about your prescription. Things you should discuss with your pharmacist, nurse, doctor or other health professional include:
    • The name of your medication
    • Why you are taking it
    • What effects to expect
    • When and how to take it. For example, should you take the medication regularly or only when needed?
    • How long to take it
    • What to do if you miss a dose
    • Possible side effects or medication errors
    • Possible interactions with other medications or alcohol
    • Whether it may cause an allergic reaction
  9. Review your prescription with your doctor before you leave the doctor's office. If you cannot read the handwriting, ask your doctor to print the prescription.
  10. Always check your medicine(s) before leaving the pharmacy. Have your pharmacist go through the instructions on the prescription label with you. This gives the pharmacist another opportunity to double check the information with you directly. Tell your pharmacist if you have any concerns or if any of the information does not match what you were expecting to see or hear.
  11. Here are some things to think about when you are checking your medicine:
    • Is this my name on the prescription label?
    • Is this the medicine that my doctor prescribed for me? If you are to receive more than one box or container of the same medicine, are all the packages the same and do they all contain the same medicine?
    • Are there any unexplained changes in my prescription? For example, does the medicine or the package look different?
    • Have I been given the right dose of the medicine?
    • Have I been given the right amount of the medicine?
    • Have I been given information on the medicine and how it is used?
    • Do I understand the directions?
    • Have I been provided with all the medicines prescribed by my doctor (or for which I have requested a refill)?
  12. Don't be afraid to speak up if you think you are about to receive the wrong medicine from a pharmacy or when you are in hospital. Be sure that you are satisfied with how your concerns have been addressed before taking any medicine.
  13. Ask your pharmacist before cutting, splitting, crushing or opening a tablet or capsule. Some dosage forms are designed to be taken whole.

Following these steps may help you from being harmed by a mistake with your medicine. Don't delay, take charge of your medication today!

This information was adapted with the permission of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, using material originally published on the site

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