Keeping track of your medicines

June 26, 2006
Remembering the names, dosages and reasons for taking many different medications off the top of your head can be a difficult task, which is why New Hanover Regional Medical Center encourages patients to bring all medications to every hospital and doctor’s visit. “Patients who take part in decisions about their health care are more likely to have better outcomes, which means there’s less risk for an adverse drug interaction occurring,” said Mark Allen, pharmacy director at New Hanover Regional. The practice of bringing medicines to health care visits helps ensure that a patient’s information is complete and accurate. Patients should bring all prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins and herbals in their original containers. Using a plastic bag makes carrying multiple bottles easier and keeps spills or leaks contained. In case of an emergency, those taking medicines should maintain a Patient Medication List, available at, to keep with them at all times. On the list, one should write down all of the medicines he or she is currently taking and all known allergies. The list should be updated regularly with the name of each medicine, the dosage, the reason for taking it, the doctor who prescribed it and the date it was prescribed. “Patients are encouraged to take ownership for their own health when they are in the hospital,” said Larry Hovis, a pharmacist at NHRMC. “They should be knowledgeable about the medications they are taking and bring everything with them for their initial health assessment. This helps their caregiver make better decisions about the prescriptions they need while they are in the hospital.” “No one should be afraid to ask his doctor, nurse or pharmacist about his medicines if he has questions,” said Hovis. “That’s what we are here for.” What I need to know about each medicine I take:
  • What is the name of each medicine?
  • What is it for?
  • How much of it should I take each time?
  • When should I take it?
  • Should I take it with food? A full glass of water? No food or water?
  • What should I do if I miss a dose?
  • Are there any side effects?
  • Is it safe to take with all of the other medicines that I’m taking, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins or herbals?
  • What food, drink, or activities should I avoid while taking it?
  • When you go to the pharmacy
  • Take new prescriptions and refills to the same drugstore so your pharmacist can make sure that all of your medicines work together and will not make you sick.
  • Ask the pharmacist to review your medicines with you and tell you how you should take it. Make sure this information matches what your doctor told you.
  • Make sure that your refills of medicines you’ve taken before are the same color, size and shape. If there is a difference, ask why.