October has been observed as Talk About Your Medicines Month (TAYMM) for over 35 years. Started by the BeMedWise Program at NeedyMeds, the awareness month is an annual opportunity to spotlight safe medicine use with the goal of improved health outcomes. This year’s theme is Understanding Medicine Labels – Making sense of your meds. Confusion about when and how much of a medicine can take can make treatments less effective, cause serious side effects or drug interactions, and negatively affect adherence. Our goal is to empower patients to maximize the benefits while minimizing the risks of the medications they are taking, and provide the tools they need to talk about their medicines.
When you are prescribed a drug, it’s important to carefully read the label and any other material given by the doctor or pharmacist to understand it to ensure your safety. All prescription medicine containers include information on the label including the patient’s name, the name of the medicine, dosage instructions, and info on how often to take the medicine. More detailed printed information about the medication is usually provided by the pharmacy when prescription medicine is dispensed. This Patient Medicine Information (PMI) includes important information such as instructions for use, and warnings about side effects and possible drug interactions.
It’s equally important to read and understand the label for over-the-counter (OTC) medications you buy. OTC medicines have a “Drug Facts Label” on their packaging, including the name of active ingredient(s), the conditions the medication is intended to treat, dosage instructions, and any warnings including side effects or possible drug interactions.
People who understand how to take their medication are more likely to take them. Conversely, not understanding how to take prescribed medicine can negatively affect adherence. Not taking medication as directed can lead to poor health outcomes which then increases healthcare service utilization and overall healthcare costs.
We encourage patients everywhere to talk to their doctors and/or their pharmacists about the medications they are taking with any questions or concerns they have. Be sure you understand how to take your medications as directed by your doctor and do not hesitate to discuss any side effects you may experience.
Ten Questions to Ask About the Medicines You Take
- What’s the name of the medicine, and what is it for?
- How and when do I take it, and for how long?
- What side effects should I expect, and what should I do about them?
- Should I take this medicine on an empty stomach or with food?
- Should I avoid any activities, foods, drinks, alcohol or other medicines while taking this prescription?
- Is it best to take in the morning or at night?
- Will this medicine work safely with my other medications, including other prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and other supplements?
- When should I expect the medicine to begin to work, and how will I know if it’s working?
- How should I store it?
- Is there any additional information I should know about this medicine?