Be an Active
Member of Your
Health Care Team
When it comes to using medicine, there is no such thing
as completely safe. All medicines have risks. The U.S. Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) approval of a drug means that the benefits outweigh
the known risks that are outlined on the drug's label.
Physicians, physician assistants, nurses, pharmacists
and YOU make up your health care team. To reduce the risks related to
using medicines and to get the maximum benefit, you need to play an active
role on the team.
The more information your health care team members know
about you, the better they can develop a plan of care tailored to you. The members of your team need to know:
- your medical history
- any allergies and sensitivities you have
- the medications you take routinely and
occasionally-prescription and over-the-counter
- any dietary supplements you use, including vitamins
- other therapies you use
- anything that may affect your ability to use the
Your health care team members help you make the
best-informed choices, but you have to ask the right questions.
When you meet with a team member, have your questions written down and
You may also want to bring along a friend or relative to
help you understand and remember the answers.
Use the Question Guide at the end
of this page to help you gather the information you need from your health
care team. If you don't understand an answer, ask again.
Before you purchase a prescription or over-the-counter
medicine, learn and understand as much about it as you can, including:
- generic and brand names
- active ingredients
- proper uses--(indications/contraindications)
- warnings and precautions
- interactions--with food, dietary supplements, other
- side effects/adverse reactions
- expiration dates
Drug information designed for the consumer is available
from a variety of sources, your pharmacy, the manufacturer, the library,
the bookstore, and the Internet. If there is something you don't
understand, ask your health care team.
BALANCE THE BENEFITS AND RISKS-Make Your Decision
After you have exchanged all the information, weigh all
your options. At this point you must decide if the benefits you hope to
achieve from the medicine outweigh its known risks. The final choice is
When you are ready to use the medicine, maximize the
benefits and minimize the risks by following the instructions printed on
the drug label:
- Read the label every time you fill your prescription--before
you leave the pharmacy. Be sure you have the right medicine and
understand how to use it.
- Read the label every time you are about to use the
medicine--to be sure it's the right
medicine, for the right patient, in the right amount, in the right way,
at the right time.
- Take the recommended dose exactly as prescribed--no
matter how tempted you are to use more to feel better faster.
- Finish all the medicine as directed--even
if you start to feel better before all your medicine is completed.
Pay attention to how you feel and notify your health
care team of any problems.
If you have doubts that the medicine is working
effectively, don't stop taking it without checking with the team. Some
medications take longer to show a benefit, and some need to be withdrawn
gradually to decrease undesirable effects. If you experience a side
effect, let your health care team know immediately. An adjustment in the
dosage or a change in medication may be needed.
Use this guide to gather the information you need to
know from your health care team.
What are the brand and generic names
of the medicine?
What is the medicine for and what effect
should I expect?
How and when will I use it, what amount
will I use, and for how long?
Should I avoid any other medicines,
(prescription or over-the-counter), dietary supplements, drinks,
foods or activities while using this drug?
When should I notice a difference or
Can this medicine be used safely with
all my other medications and therapies?
What are the possible side effects?
How and where do I store this medicine?
Where and how can I get written information
about this medicine?