Taking pills: 5 questions you must ask before using that drug

Credit: lifescript.com

 The Important Questions

1. Am I taking the Right Drug?

I strongly believe it is wise to be sure that the medication you are about to swallow is the one intended for the particular ailment. This is why it is important you ask your doctor or pharmacist about the drugs prescribed for you. I once saw a case of a patient that took antihypertensive medications for several months thinking he was taking antidiabetics. Not until after the condition got worse before the mix up was discovered. If you are prescribed more than one medication, be sure what each is for so you won’t end up taking a multivitamin thinking you are treating infections. Check the name on the package of the drug with the name on the card. It’s possible to put drug A in package of drug B especially if they are inside dispensing envelopes after some days of using the medicine at home. Some drugs have unique colours and shape which helps in their identification but most drugs may look alike. It is advisable to always double check.

Before taking a pill, simple ask yourself- is this the right drug?

2. Am I taking the Right dose?

When it comes to drug, dose is one thing that should never be compromised. A slight change in dose can be very lethal especially for some types of medication. If you get your medications from the hospital or a standard private pharmacy, the dose of your meds will be clearly written on the pack. Cross check to be sure you’re taking the right number of tabs. Avoid relying on verbal directions; it’s possible you will forget. Remember, the faintest pencil is better than the sharpest brain. Make it a habit to always read the drug leaflets, you will get more information there and when you know more, you will be very sure.

Before taking a pill, double check again…is that the Right dose? 

3. Am I taking it the Right Way?

There are several Routes of administration of drugs.

Some drugs come in powder (especially children meds) and should be mixed with water before swallowing; do not swallow the powder. Sustained/delayed release tablet should be swallowed whole, do not crush or break (risk of dose dumping). Some other drugs’re to be put under the tongue not swallowed, they’re called sublingual. Drugs can also be administered through the anus or vaginal openings; it will be very awkward to swallow such medications.

A patient once asked me if it’s appropriate to swallow iodine mixed with milk (supposed treatment for ulcer). Another patient told me he was advised to swallow chloroquine injection with sprite to eradicate malaria parasite from his system. Please note that ALL external preparations like iodine and injectable like chloroquine injections should never be swallowed, can cause damage to the internal organs.

Ensure you’re using the drug in the appropriate way. Failure to do so can put you is risk of fatal drug reactions and possible toxicity.

4. Am I taking at the right time?

You may remember being instructed to take a particular medicine only at night or probably in the morning. Drugs that can cause you to sleep are preferably taken at night. You shouldn’t take such drugs during the day especially if you may have to drive or operate machinery. Imagine dozing off while driving, absolutely too risky. Some other medications that causes one to urinate the more may be preferably taken in the morning (in the day) so your sleep won’t be disturbed due to frequent urination. Sometimes, your Pharmacist may direct you to take a drug at a specific time to prevent interaction with your other drugs. A couple of drugs, mostly the antibiotics are time sensitive. You may want to strictly adhere to the hourly directions for good therapeutic response.

Double check again, is that the right time to take it?

5. Am I to take before/in between/after meal?

By default, we all want to take medications after meal. However, some medications are best taken before meals, (Read our previous article on drugs you must take on empty stomach) while some others are taken in between meals. Food can have significant effect on the absorption of drugs into the bloodstream. A very good example is the antimalarial class- Artemether/Lumenfantrine are best taken with fatty meal while fatty meal causes the absorption of the antimalarial Halofantrine to increase by about six folds making the side effects very pronounced. For best therapeutic outcomes, kindly take your meds strictly as directed.

You may want to ask yourself again…. Am I to take after meal or not?

Red Alert:

If you cannot answer the five questions above correctly,

Do not proceed!!!!!!!!

Seek the attention of your Pharmacist or Doctor for clarity.

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