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Taken correctly, prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medicine is an effective way to treat a wide range of illnesses and help you feel better. 

These tips can help ensure you are safely taking, as well as safely storing and disposing, your medicine.  


Tip 1: Follow instructions

Review instructions with your doctor before starting or stopping any prescribed or OTC medication. This includes understanding:

  • Dosage
  • Timing if more than one dosage
  • Side effects
  • Interactions with other drugs or substances

For example, you may be instructed to take medicine twice daily, avoid alcohol and not operate a car or heavy machinery.


Tip 2: Check expiration dates

Drug products in the United States undergo stability testing through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and require a posted expiration date for consumer use. Medications may have a reduced effect or can even be harmful after this date.

Most drugs have an expiration date that extends 12 to 60 months. Never take medicine that has been sitting in your cabinet for a long period of time without checking the expiration date. Even if the medicine is not expired, especially prescribed medicine, do not take without consulting your doctor if you should still be taking.


Tip 3: Keep track of your medications

Maintaining a list of the medicines you are taking, and what dosage, helps you form a medical history and track any new symptoms that arise when starting a new medicine. When visiting a new doctor, you will be asked to provide your list of current medications. Your list will help make sure your doctor has all relevant information.

Staying with one pharmacy also helps to keep a record of your prescription medicine history. Additionally, one pharmacy makes it easier to receive all medications at one location as well as build a relationship with your pharmacist should questions arise.


Tip 4: Properly store your medications

Storing medicine in a bathroom cabinet or drawer is common. But hot and humid environments—like running hot water without proper ventilation in a bathroom—can actually hinder the potency and efficacy of medication. It can even cause toxicity in some instances. 

Instead, store pill bottles in a cool, dry place. Some medications may need to be stored in a refrigerator. Check your instructions to ensure proper storage. 


Tip 5: Dispose of medications safely

Routinely cleaning your medicine cabinet is the best way to avoid taking expired medications and/or leftover antibiotics. It may seem as simple as flushing medicines down the toilet, but that is actually not recommended. It is harmful to the environment and can even affect drinking water because sewage plants do not completely filter out medications from the water. 

Instead, medications should be properly disposed of at a local drop off location.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) also hosts National Drug Takeback Days twice a year in October and April to promote safe disposal.

Call 866-MY-LI-DOC (866-695-4362) to find a Catholic Health physician near you. 

Explore Catholic Health pharmacy services.

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