Millions of people benefit from FDA-approved medicines. However, when medicines are not used correctly, they can cause serious health problems or even death. Many of these problems can be prevented. Follow these four steps to avoid common medication mistakes:
1. Ask Questions
Ask your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist to tell you the facts about each medicine you take and any changes to your prescriptions.
Use these materials to help you talk to your healthcare provider:
Use Medicines Wisely — Important questions to ask your doctor and other helpful tips.
- Large font version (PDF 192 KB)
- Printable/Refreshable braille (PDF 21 KB)
- For women with intellectual disabilities and self advocates (PDF 2,451 KB)
Medicine and Pregnancy — Questions to ask before using medicines when you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Medicine Booklets — Information to help you talk to your doctor about prescription medicines for high blood pressure, depression, diabetes, birth control, high cholesterol, menopause, and smoking cessation.
2. Keep a Medicine List
Write down the name and important facts about each medicine, vitamin, and herb you take. Note any side effects or problems you have taking your medicines. Keep the list with you all the time. Show it to your healthcare provider so that they know about all of the medicines you take.
Watch and share our video with tips for you and your family.
Use the My Medicines brochure to help you keep track of the medicines you take. This brochure is available in English, Spanish, Arabic, Polish, and 10 Asian/Pacific Islander languages.
3. Follow Directions
It is important that you use your medicine as directed. Your medicine may not work if you don't follow the directions. Talking too much or too little can make you sick.
- Read the directions on the label and ask your healthcare provider how much you should take and when to take it.
- Only take the suggested dose.
- Do not stop taking your medicines without asking your healthcare provider, even if your symptoms go away.
- Learn how to read the drug facts label for the over-the-counter medicines.
4. Safely Store and Throw Out Medicines
Ask your doctor or pharmacist where you should keep your medicines at home. Also ask how you should throw out unused medicines that you don't need. Some medicines should not be put is the trash or flushed down the toilet or sink.
- Keep medicines locked in a safe place away from kids and other adults. Watch the video on how to lock up your medicine.
- Follow these tips on how to safely throw out medicines you no longer need.
Other Helpful Resources
Use these resources to learn more about your medicines and get other medication safety tips.
- Drug Information on brand name and generic drugs
- Free Health Materials for Women
- Tips for Seniors
- Giving Medicine to Children
- Buying Medicines Online
- Avoid Health Scams
- Report a Problem
- Women's Health Information on Twitter