General Medication Guidelines

You and your healthcare provider are partners in your medication plan. Finding ways to make things run more smoothly can improve your chances of staying healthy.

What are some medication guidelines?

You have the right and responsibility to know what medications are being prescribed for you. The more you know about your medications and how they work, the easier it will be for you to manage your symptoms. You and your doctor are partners in developing, adjusting, and following an effective medication plan. Make sure you understand and share the same treatment goals as your doctor. Talk about what you expect from medications so you can know if your treatment plan is working.


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  • Before any medication is prescribed, tell your doctor if you have any allergies. Also tell your doctor about all other medications you are taking, including over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
  • Know the names of your medications (generic and brand names), why they are being prescribed, and their dosages. Always keep a list of your medications with you.
  • Know what side effects to expect from your medications. Call your doctor if you are having side effects.
  • Take your medications exactly as prescribed, at the same time(s) every day. Do not stop taking or change your medications unless you first talk with your health care provider. Even if you feel good, continue to take your medications. Stopping some medications might be harmful.
  • Do not stop taking your medication. Talk to your health care provider if you have concerns about your medication and how it is working.
  • Do not decrease your medication dosage to save money. You must take the full amount to get the full benefits. Talk with your health care provider about ways you can reduce the costs of your medications.
  • Have a routine for taking your medications. If there is a chance that you can become confused about when to take your medications, or that you will miss a medication, consider getting a pill box that is marked with the days of the week. Fill the pill box at the beginning of each week to make it easier for you to remember.
  • Keeping a medicine calendar/log book might help you to remember if you have taken your medication.
  • Wash your hands before preparing or taking medications.
  • Take your time. Double-check the name and dosage of all your medications before using them.
  • Do not wait until you are completely out of medication before filling your prescriptions. Call the pharmacy or doctor’s office at least one week before running out. If you have trouble getting to the pharmacy, have financial concerns, or have other problems that make it difficult for you to get your medications, let your health care provider know.
  • Keep medications stored in their original containers. Store according to the instructions given with the prescription.
  • Check liquid medications often. If they have changed color or formed crystals, throw them away and get new ones.
  • Do not take any over-the-counter drugs or herbal therapies unless you ask your health care provider first.
  • When traveling, keep your medications with you so you can take them as scheduled. On longer trips, take an extra week’s supply of medications and copies of your prescriptions, in case you need to get a refill.
  • The way the body responds to medications might change over time, so your medications might need to be adjusted. Tell your doctor if you notice a difference in how well the treatment plan is working.
Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/15/2018.

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