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Patient Handouts Page 1 of 2 Information about Your Medicine Why is medicine information important? Good health starts with good information. If you are taking medicine, you should know why you are taking it. You should know what the medicine is, how much medicine to take, how often to take the medicine, and whether to take the medicine before, between, or after meals. This becomes more important as you get older and are more likely to be taking more than one medicine. Why am I taking the medicine? Medicines can be confusing, especially if you are taking medicines for more than one condition. If you don't know why you are taking a particular drug and the label does not say what it is for, ask your pharmacist. You can write on the label the reason you are taking the medicine (for example, "heart" or "cough"). This information could be very important if you become ill and need help from a friend or family member. What is the medicine? Depending on your healthcare provider's prescription, the label may show a brand name or the generic (chemical) name. It is often less expensive to buy your prescription by its generic name than by the brand name. Although the color or shape of the drug may be different, there is usually no difference in quality between generic and brand name drugs. You can ask your provider to prescribe generic drugs if they are available. How much, how often, and when? Follow the dose and schedule written on the prescription label. Some medicines are short-acting and need to be taken more often. Others stay in the body longer and don't need to be taken as often. Some medicines irritate the stomach, especially if there is no food in the stomach. It is best to take these medicines with meals. Other medicines work better if your stomach is empty. Always take your prescribed medicine until it is all gone. Don't change your dose without consulting your healthcare provider, and don't use medicine prescribed for someone else. If you forget a dose of your medicine, don't try to make up for it by taking more with the next dose unless your provider has told you to do this. What about side effects? Medicines can cause side effects, such as headaches, skin rashes, dizziness, or nausea. Some side effects may be less obvious, such as weight loss or confusion. Ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider what side effects you should expect. If you think your medicine is causing side effects, call your provider right away. Also, it is important to tell all of your healthcare providers about all of the medicines that have been prescribed for you. Some drugs may cause serious side effects if they are combined with other medicines. It is very helpful to go to the same pharmacy for all of your medicines. This will allow them to know about all of the medicines you are taking. They will be able to check for possible interactions between any of your medicines, whether prescribed by your provider or bought over the counter. What else should I know about my medicines? Other questions to ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist when you are prescribed a new medicine are: How soon will it work? What do I do if I miss a scheduled dose? Is it OK to drive, operate machinery, exercise, or travel by plane while taking this medicine? Will it interact with other drugs, herbs, or supplements I am taking? Will it interact with some foods or with alcohol, such as wine, beer, or cocktails? What can I do to help take care of myself? Patient handouts provided by Merck Medicus. Copyright © 2012-2013 Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., a subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc. Patient Handouts Page 2 of 2 Tell your healthcare provider and pharmacist if you have any allergies to medicines. An allergy can cause sudden rash, trouble breathing, swelling in the mouth or face, nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness, or other symptoms. An allergic reaction to a medicine may happen soon after you begin to take it or any time while you are taking it. Some drugs cause allergic reactions that may occur hours, days, or weeks after taking the drug. Make sure your healthcare provider knows about all the medicines you are taking, nonprescription and prescribed. Sometimes it is helpful to put all your medicines, vitamins, and supplements in a bag and take them to your doctor's appointment, so your provider can see everything you are taking and what the doses are. Know your medicines. Make sure they are clearly labeled. Follow the dose instructions and take all the medicine prescribed by your healthcare provider. Try to go to just 1 pharmacy, especially if you have more than 1 healthcare provider prescribing medicines for you. The pharmacist can keep records of all your medicines and watch for possible interactions. If your medicine is liquid, shake the bottle well before you use it. Take tablets with a glass of water. If you think your medicine is causing side effects, call your healthcare provider. Do not use medicines that are out of date. Do not let other people take any of your prescription medicines and do not take any of theirs. Get rid of medicines that are no longer needed and keep all medicines out of the reach of children. Ask for regular bottle caps if you have trouble opening the childproof ones. You can buy an inexpensive daily medicine reminder box from your pharmacy. The easiest kind to use has 7 compartments, one for each day of the week. Look for a transparent box so that you can see at a glance if you have taken your medicine for the day. Keep the box on a kitchen counter or some place where you cannot miss seeing it each day. If children live with you or visit you sometimes, keep the box safely out of their reach. Patient handouts provided by Merck Medicus. Copyright © 2012-2013 Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., a subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc.