When your doctor gives you a prescription, they have made a careful decision about choosing the right medicine for you. Taking a prescribed medicine correctly also involves taking the medicine in the right dose, by the right route and at the right time. You have been part of the decision-making process by answering questions so your doctor has a complete medical history.
As part of this process, you have told your doctor about any previous allergic reactions to medicines that you have suffered. You have told your doctor about any types of medicines that you may be currently taking (remembering that vitamins, minerals, herbal and food supplements and over-the-counter medicines all need to be considered).
You need to tell your doctor about any chronic health problems you may have, and whether you are pregnant or breast feeding.
Once you leave your doctor there are still a number of responsibilities you must assume.
You must know how to administer the medicine you will be taking properly, and how to comply with the dosing schedule. You should be aware of any possible side effects identified for that medicine, so you know what to expect. Always ask your doctor or pharmacist about side effects.
Importantly, you need to be aware of the signs or symptoms that may indicate the need to contact your doctor about a potential problem with the medicine. Unfortunately, often people will leave their doctor's office without understanding the treatment they are about to start and this often means that they are unable to comply with their doctor's advice.
Do not stop taking the medicine before it has had a chance to work properly — even if you don't think it is working, or you start feeling better. If you experience unpleasant side effects contact your doctor or pharmacist.
Do not take the medicine in incorrect dosages or at the wrong time, and don't take the medicine in higher doses or at more frequent intervals than it has been prescribed.
Sometimes medicines can mix with other medicines you are already taking to cause negative effects. These can affect how well the medicine works or change the side effects of the medicine. Certain foods and alcohol can also affect the way medicines work. These effects are known as drug interactions. Interactions occur most commonly when starting or stopping a medicine and with an increased dose of a medicine. Always ask your doctor or pharmacist about any interactions you should be aware of when you start a new medicine.
Always check your medicine's label, to see if there are special instructions regarding food and alcohol intake with your medicine and follow these instructions carefully. If you are unsure about drinking alcohol while taking a medicine, ask your doctor or pharmacist directly.
It is also important to read the Consumer Medicines Information (CMI) leaflet that comes with your medicine, as well as the instructions provided by the pharmacist regarding your medicine. You can search myDr's CMI directory to find your medicine.
There are several precautions to bear in mind before you take any medication.
If in doubt about any medicine ask your doctor or pharmacist.
Last Reviewed: 12 December 2012