How to Read a Drug Info Sheet

by on September 26th, 2010
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There have been many times that reading drug information sheets have prevented some nasty side effects and/or interactions. While doctors know many of the interactions, he or she may not remember that you are taking them. Your pharmacist will catch most of them, but having the information yourself is wise.

Drug Name(s): The first thing on the page is the name of the drug, and if it is a generic you will find both the brand name and the generic name. Generics are supposed to be exactly the same, but news reports of problems are usually associated with the brand name.

Uses: Some medications have more than one use. A medication that prevents seizures may also be used as an anti-anxiety medication. This information will tell you what your medication is supposed to do for you.

How to Use: This clarifies information found on the prescription bottle. If you’re supposed to take more than one tablet at a time, you’ll find that information here. It will also tell you when to take it, whether or not you should take it with food and if there are any other special instructions about it. This is a very important segment.

Side Effects: All medications have side effects. Some are good and some aren’t. Antidepressants can cause sleepiness. As they are often taken at night, this is a good side effect. However, anti-seizure medications can do the same thing and they are often taken during the day. You may need to make alternative arrangements if you need to go somewhere, as you may not be fit to drive.

Precautions: This segment tells you such things as mentioned above. You may be told not to drive or operate machinery until you know how it will affect you. It may also tell you not to take the medication if you are pregnant or think you might be. Most medications cross the placental barrier and could harm the child.

Interactions: Many things can interact with medications, and it’s not always other medications. While that is listed, you may be told not to drink grapefruit juice or take certain supplements at the same time as the medication.

Overdose: Some overdoses are intentional, some are related to memory problems and some are accidental. Whatever the cause, this segment tells you what to do if it happens.

Missed Dose: If you forget to take your medication on time, this segment tells you what to do. Sometimes it will be to go ahead and take it when you remember and then go back to your regular schedule. Other medications may require that you just skip that dose and resume as scheduled.

As you can see, this is important information. Spend some time reading the information, and if there is something you don’t understand or that concerns you, ask your doctor and your pharmacist. They don’t mind this sort of question.


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