Be an Active Member of Your Health Care Team
When it comes to using medicine, there is no such thing as completely safe. All medicines have risks. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of a drug means that the benefits outweigh the known risks that are outlined on the drug's label.
Physicians, physician assistants, nurses, pharmacists and YOU make up your health care team. To reduce the risks related to using medicines and to get the maximum benefit, YOU need to play an active role on the team.
S.A.F.E.R. Medicine Use
To make medicine use SAFER:
- Speak up
- Ask questions
- Find the facts
- Evaluate your choices
- Read the label and follow directions
The more information your health care team members know about you, the better they can develop a plan of care tailored to you. The members of your team need to know:
Ask QuestionsYour health care team members help you make the best-informed choices, but you have to ask the right questions. When you meet with a team member, have your questions written down and take notes. You may also want to bring along a friend or relative to help you understand and remember the answers. If you don't understand an answer, ask again. Use these questions as a guide to gather the information you need to know from your health care team. Questions to ask include:
- What are the brand and generic names of the medicine?
- Can I use a generic form?
- What is the medicine for and what effect should I expect?
- Does this drug replace any other medicine I have been using?
- How and when will I use it, what amount will I use, and for how long?
- What do I do if I miss a dose?
- Should I avoid any other medicines, (prescription or over-the-counter), dietary supplements, drinks, foods or activities while using this drug?
- When should I notice a difference or improvement?
- When should I report back to the team?
- Will I need to have any testing to monitor this drug's effects?
- Can this medicine be used safely with all my other medications and therapies?
- Could there be interactions?
- What are the possible side effects?
- What do I do if a side effect occurs?
- How and where do I store this medicine?
- Where and how can I get written information about this medicine?
- What other sources of information can I use to make my decision?
Learn the Facts
Before you purchase a prescription or over-the-counter medicine, learn and understand as much about it as you can, including:
- generic and brand names
- active ingredients
- proper uses (indications/contraindications)
- warnings and precautions
- interactions (with food, dietary supplements, other medicines side effects/adverse reactions)
- expiration dates
Drug information designed for the consumer is available from a variety of sources, your pharmacy, the manufacturer, the library, the bookstore, and the Internet. If there is something you don't understand, ask your health care team.
Evaluate Your Choices
Balance the benefits and risks/ Make your decision
After you have exchanged all the information, weigh all your options. At this point you must decide if the benefits you hope to achieve from the medicine outweigh its known risks. The final choice is yours.
Read The Label / Follow Directions
When you are ready to use the medicine, maximize the benefits and minimize the risks by following the instructions printed on the drug label:
Report Back To The Team
Pay attention to how you feel and notify your health care team of any problems.
If you have doubts that the medicine is working effectively, don't stop taking it without checking with the team. Some medications take longer to show a benefit, and some need to be withdrawn gradually to decrease undesirable effects. If you experience a side effect, let your health care team know immediately. An adjustment in the dosage or a change in medication may be needed.
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Source: Be an Active Member of Your Health Care Team, FDA / Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, August 17, 2005