The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) judges a drug to be safe enough to approve when the benefits of the medicine outweigh the known risks for the labeled use.
Doctors, physician assistants, nurses, pharmacists and you make up your health care team. To reduce the risks from using medicines and to get the most benefit, you need to be an active member (an “empowered patient”) of the team.
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 knows about you, the better the team can plan the care that’s right for you.
The members of your team need to know your medical history, such as illnesses, medical conditions (like high blood pressure or diabetes), and operations you have had.
They also need to know all the medicines and treatments you use, whether all the time or only some of the time. Before you add something new, talk it over with your team. Your team can help you with what mixes well, and what doesn’t.
It helps to give a written list of all your medicines and treatments to all your doctors, pharmacists and other team members. Keep a copy of the list for yourself and give a copy to a loved one.
Be sure to include:
- prescription medicines, including any samples your doctor may have given you
- over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, or medicines you can buy without a prescription (such as antacids, laxatives, or pain, fever, and cough/cold medicines)
- dietary supplements, including vitamins and herbs
- any other treatments
- any allergies, and any problems you may have had with a medicine
- anything that could have an effect on your use of medicine, such as pregnancy, breast feeding, trouble swallowing, trouble remembering, or cost
Your health care team can help you make the best choices, but you have to ask the right questions. When you meet with a team member, have your questions written down and take notes on the answers. You also may want to bring along a friend or relative to help you understand and remember.
Use the Question Guide at the end of this pamphlet to help you get the answers you need from your health care team. If you don’t understand an answer, ask again.