The next time you collect medicine from pharmacies at the Singapore General Hospital, take a closer look at the carrier bag, which has a printed checklist on how you can prevent medication problems. To make the best of your treatment, just remember three easy steps to safer medicine.
1. Inform your doctor or pharmacist …
- If you have any allergy to any medicine. Medicines can belong to a “family” and share similar chemical structures. So if you are allergic to a medicine, you may also react to another medicine from the same family.
- Do volunteer information on any allergies to your doctor and pharmacist especially when you are being prescribed a new medicine.
- The types of medicine that you are currently taking, if any.
Note: Medicines and health products like herbs, traditional medicine and vitamins can have profound effects on the body when taken together. Undesirable results include stronger side effects or a decrease in the medicine’s effectiveness.
For example, oral contraceptives may be rendered ineffective by phenytoin while ginkgo biloba extract can increase the blood thinning effects of warfarin.
2. Ask questions about the medicine you are taking…
What is the prescribed dosage?
Dosage is the most important information that you need to remember and follow closely.
How it should be taken?
Do check if you should take the medicine before or after meals. Examples: the antibiotic tetracycline is better absorbed by the body when taken before food while aspirin can cause a stomach upset and is best taken after food.
Purpose of medicine
Know why you are taking the medicine, especially if it has to be taken long-term.
If it is a short-term medicine to control your symptoms, can you stop when symptoms are gone?
Know what are common side effects of the medicine
Examples: constipation due to certain types of painkillers or the darkening of stools when taking iron supplements.
Ask your pharmacist on the serious side effects to look out for so that you know when to stop taking the medicine and seek help.
For example, if you have muscle pain or weakness when taking any cholesterol-lowering medicine belonging to the statin group, you should stop taking it and see your doctor as soon as possible.
Must you avoid any food, drink or activities?
Medicines that cause drowsiness or hand tremors are unsuitable for those who drive vehicles or work with machinery. Examples include antihistamines or medicine to treat insomnia. Ask your pharmacist to recommend alternatives. Clarify any doubts
3. Clarify any doubts
If you are not sure, ask for more information you have with your doctor or pharmacist.
- Clarify any doubt you have with your doctor or pharmacist.
- If you would like to know about the medicine you are taking, you can request for information leaflets about the various types of medicine at any of the SGH pharmacies.