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Medicine do's and don'ts

What to do


You may want to choose one pharmacist or pharmacy to help you manage all of your medicines.

This can help you keep track of changes and be a good source for answers to medicine questions.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach of children.
  • Store medicine away from heat, light and humidity.
  • Refill your prescriptions before they run out.
  • Tell each doctor, dentist and health care team member about all the medicines you are taking.
  • Ask your pharmacist for an easy-open cap if there are no children in your home.
  • Take all your medicine — don't stop early.
  • Check with your health care team about complementary medicines that you are using or want to start using. These include herbs, minerals, dietary supplements and natural products.
  • Bring all medicines with you to each doctor's appointment.

What not to do


When you are taking certain heart medicines, drinking grapefruit juice may be harmful. Ask your pharmacist if this applies to you.

  • Don't take medicines prescribed for anyone else.
  • Don't substitute one medicine for another.
  • Don't refrigerate your medicines unless you are told to do so.
  • Don't store medicine in the bathroom or near the kitchen sink. (Humidity can affect medicine.)
  • Don't keep outdated medicine.
  • Don't get caught without your medicine when you leave home or go on vacation.
  • Don't mix different pills in the same bottle — it can lead to mix-ups.
  • Don't skip a dose and don't take more than your prescribed dose.

Tips for taking medicines safely

  • You may find your changing medicines and dosages difficult to remember. Write down your doctor's instructions. Ask your pharmacist to repeat medicine directions to you clearly. Write down what you take and when you take it.
  • When your heart isn't healthy, it is important that you take your medicine in exactly the right dose at exactly the right times. Take your medicine as prescribed. It's important to work with your health care team to design a daily schedule for your medicines that meets your needs.
  • Refill your prescriptions on time. Keep at least a one week supply. Call your pharmacy for refills a week before you need them. Plan ahead for vacations. If you can't afford your medicines, talk with your health care team. There may be a less expensive medicine or financial help may be available.
  • If you miss a dose of medicine, take it as soon as you can, and then go back to your regular dose schedule. If you don't realize you've missed a dose until it's time for the next dose, do not take a double dose! If you have questions, ask your pharmacist.



Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Helping Your Heart, fourth edition, cvs-ahc-90648

First published: 10/04/2002
Last updated: 06/01/2007

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts