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To get the best results from your medicines, it’s important to use them as they are intended.
You need to:
Take the right amount of medicine at the right times, in the right way and for the right number of days.
Get advice from your pharmacist or GP if you are having any side effects that bother you.
See whether your medicines are making you feel better or worse. If you’re worried, tell your doctor or pharmacist as soon as possible.
For medicines you have to take regularly, make sure you always have enough, especially at weekends, public holidays and when you’re on holiday.
Always use medicines according to the instructions on the label on the packet, or as your doctor or pharmacist has advised you.
Read the patient information leaflet provided with the medicine, as it may answer some of the questions you have.
If you are concerned about anything in the leaflet, talk to your pharmacist. The doctor may have prescribed a medicine for a condition that is not listed in the leaflet.
If your medicines aren’t used in the right way, you may not get the best out of them and they may even make you feel worse. Don’t use them after their expiry dates, and never use other people’s prescription medicines.
If you’re ever unsure about how to use a medicine or you would like to ask a question about it, you can ask your local pharmacist. You don’t need to book an appointment.
Find out more about how your local pharmacist can help you.
What to tell your doctor before they write your prescription
List any other medicines and pills you are taking or have taken, even those bought over the counter, including vitamins and supplements. Write them down before your appointment or bring the packaging with you to your appointment.
Give details of your symptoms, including when they started and what makes them better or worse.
Tell them if you have any allergies or intolerances, such as lactose intolerance.
Say whether you would prefer the medicine in liquid or tablet form – for example, if you have problems swallowing pills.
Let your doctor know if you are thinking about stopping a medicine, or you’re not taking a medicine you have been prescribed or not taking it as instructed.
If you’re unsure about how to use your medicine, ask. For example, some people find asthma inhalers difficult to use.
Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you can’t take your medicine because, for example, you can’t open the child-proof packaging or it’s difficult for you to take it at the same time each day.
Say if you are worried or concerned about any side effects you may be experiencing.
Shared decision making (SDM) is the conversation that happens between you and your doctor so you can reach a decision about your treatment together.
As part of this conversation, your doctor may suggest using a patient decision aid with you. This is a tool designed to help you weigh up the risks and benefits of different treatments, depending on your health, lifestyle and preferences.
See more about shared decision making.
Self-management plans explained
If you have a long-term condition, your doctor may suggest using a self-management plan. The plan normally covers every aspect of your medicines, including what they are for, when to take them, when to get advice, and what important side effects to look out for.
If you are not happy about using a self-management plan once the details have been explained to you, you can say so. Just explain why you’re not able or don’t want to use it.
What to ask about your medicines
This is a list of things you may want to ask your doctor before they prescribe a medicine for you. A pharmacist or other health professional may also be able to answer these questions. You may like to print these out and take them with you for your appointment.
How often should my medicines be reviewed?
Who sees the information about what medicines I’m taking?
Will the information about my medicines be kept confidential?
What are the benefits of using a self-management plan?
Can you tell me more about using a patient decision aid?
How do I report a side effect that is really worrying me, or a bad reaction to a medicine?
What do I do if I think I no longer need a medicine?
Who do I speak to if I want to stop taking a medicine?
What do I do if I think a mistake has been made with my medicines?
What to ask your pharmacist about new medicines
Check whether you can continue to use over-the-counter medicines, such as painkillers or indigestion tablets. In some cases, these can affect your prescribed medicines.
Check how the medicine should be stored and for how long. For example, some liquid medicines need to be kept in the fridge.
If you have difficulty remembering when to take your medicines, ask your pharmacist to write you a daily timetable.
Check how and when the medicine should be taken – for example, whether it should be taken at the same time, before or after meals, and whether certain foods affect the medicine.
If you are prescribed a medicine for a long-term condition for the first time, you may be able to get extra help from your pharmacist through the New Medicine Service.