They kill infections. They make pain go away. They make joints work better. They save lives.

Prescription drugs can work wonders. But if not taken properly, or combined with other drugs, they can do more harm than good. Here’s what you need to know about taking medication safely:

  • Your doctor and pharmacist need to know about every medication — both prescription and over-the-counter — that you are taking. Combining different prescription medications or prescriptions with over-the-counter medications can lead to dangerous drug interactions.

Tip: Make a list of all your medications and always carry it with you.

  • Take medications only as prescribed by your doctor.
  • Herbal products, homeopathic remedies and vitamins can interact with some medications and should be treated like any other drug.

Tip: Ask your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medications or herbal preparations.

  • Tell your doctor about any food or drug allergies you have, or reactions that you've had to drugs before.
  • Tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are pregnant, nursing or trying to become pregnant.
  • Don’t stop taking your medications without asking your doctor if it’s okay, even if you are feeling better.
  • Tell your doctor about any medication side effects you experience.
  • Before taking over-the-counter medications, read the labels carefully. They may contain ingredients you don’t want or shouldn’t take. Your pharmacist will help you select the right product.
  • Ask questions if you have doubts or concerns about your medications.

Questions to ask your doctor about medication

  • The name, strength and form of the medication prescribed
  • Why you’re taking the medication
  • When and how to take it
  • What to do if you miss a dose
  • How long you’ll be on the medication
  • What to expect as side effects
  • Whether the medication is on your insurance plan's formulary, or list of approved drugs, and whether a generic alternative is available
  • Whom to call if you have questions

Additional resources

Advice on preventing medication side effects, remembering to take medication and more.