Improving Medication Safety

10 Quick Things a Pharmacist Wants You to Know!

Pharmacists undertake great care to reduce errors and harm when it comes to supplying your medicines. They work closely with the health system to supply you with secure, regulated, and effective medication that benefit you as an individual.

But you too have the tools to increase your safety when purchasing over the counter medicines, and/or taking any prescribed medication. This post has included 10 quick and efficient steps you can do to protect your health while using medication.

Working with your pharmacist will bring you positive results, safe prescriptions, and a healthier and livelier you. To get there, all you have to do is follow these steps.

1. Take your medication

Taking your medication as prescribed for as long as indicated by your pharmacist can help relieve or manage your health related condition, such as diabetes, blood pressure, asthma…the list continues.

Also discuss any side effects you may experience. Writing down when you experience them, how often, and how severe, will help in the long run.

The informational leaflet that came with your medication will tell you what the expected side effects should be. If anything feels “off”, consult your pharmacist as soon as you’re able.

2. Inform your pharmacist about your allergies

Keep your pharmacist in the know, ahead of time, if you have any medical related allergies such as penicillin, aspirin, or any other. Knowing your allergies ahead of time can help pharmacists minimise the harm you may have experienced when purchasing or collecting prescribed medication. Without this information you may be putting your health at risk.

For any additional medication purchases you make or are prescribed by your doctor, your pharmacists will have a record with the allergies you previously mentioned.

3. Listen

While your pharmacist is giving you information related to the medication prescribed for your ailment, don’t be afraid to ask them any questions. Ask them to clarify:

  • The time that is best to take the medication
  • If you need to eat before, during, or after taking the medication
  • If consuming alcohol could cause complications or harm while on the medication
  • Any other questions you may have

It’s best to repeat back the information your pharmacist has given you. This way you can receive direct confirmation that you fully understand the answers to your questions and you’re both on the same page before you go home.

4. Vitamins, herbs, and over the counter medication purchases

Despite what you may have heard from a friend or read online, many vitamins, herbs and over the counter (OTC) medic
ines are not necessarily safe for consumption. Many of these medications may not be regulated for use here in the UK and could have dangerous side effects that have been kept hidden from the public.

Before making any purchases, consult with your pharmacist about the vitamins, herbs or OTC you’re interested in. They’ll know best whether it’s a regulated medicine, what side effects it may have, or if it’s something you should be staying far away from.

5. Read the label

  • Check to see if the name on your medication is your own. 

Even when the most care is taken, the occasional mix up can happen. Taking someone else’s prescription by mistake could harm you and your health.

  • Read the directions thoroughly. 

Some medications require to be taken on an empty stomach, while others require you to eat while using, or maybe another is better taken before bed. Reading the description will tell you exactly what you need to do before taking the medication and when.

  • Always check the warnings.

You can also write this down in a notepad or diary. Keep track of the warnings on each label bottle. It’s an important list of what you should avoid while taking your medication (i.e alcohol, driving, etc) to ensure the best and safest results.

6. Ordering medication

When buying, only order from a registered pharmacy or pharmacist that provides regulated medications. If you buy from an unregulated service you may be buying a medication that could be harmful.

Never borrow medication from anyone, even if it’s a close friend or family member. The medication they have is prescribed to them based on their medical history and current health. What works for them may not work for you and could give you a bad reaction. 

If you’re on long-term use of medication, be sure to organise it ahead of time so you don’t run out by accident.

A better way to do this is to sign up for services offered by your pharmacist. These services are automatic and will help you order your repeat prescriptions: you stay in control, your GP is involved, and the pharmacy team does the running around. This way you won’t have to worry about running out of your medication.

7. What’s in the box?

Medication often comes with a booklet or a leaflet jam packed with information related to warnings, side effects, directions, and background information about the medication and/or the company behind it. This is all very important and very useful, so be sure to read through the leaflet thoroughly to soak in as much information as you can.

The expiry date should also be in the leaflet. Keep a close eye on this and don’t continue to take your medications after that date. It could be harmful to your health.

8. Storing your medications

How and where you store your prescription is important. Information related to this can be found on the label or in a information leaflet that came with your prescription.  Some medications are temperature sensitive. They may become ineffective or dangerous if not stored in the appropriate temperature.

If you’re travelling with your medication keep it in their labelled containers so all the information related to directions and dosage are right with you. Keep it somewhere close but in a low temperature location.

9. Keeping your pharmacists in the know

Keep your pharmacist in the know about your hospital visits, no matter how frequent or infrequent. Keep them updated with your ailments, symptoms, healing process, and any or all side effects you’ve experienced while on your medication.

The more your pharmacist knows about your health and how its doing, the better they can help you.

10. Knowing your medicines

The best and quickest way to understand medicines is with a one-on-one consultation with your pharmacist. You can do this through these three authoritative channels:

Medication Use Review (MUR): Talk to a pharmacist one-on-one to discuss any health issues you have and to also highlight any reason your medication may not be right for you. The pharmacist will go through your regular medication to make sure you know what they are for, why you are taking them, and the correct way of taking your medication.

New Medicine Service (NMS): When given new medications, pharmacists are there to make sure you don’t suffer any side effects and everything works as it should. Pharmacists will also monitor any issues that could possibly happen.

 Ask dearPHARMACIST: You can talk directly to a qualified and registered pharmacist from the comfort of home through an online channel. Ask as many questions as you need to. Nothing is too small to discuss.

These channels can provide you with an overview of your medication including any and all background information, side effects, and instructions for use. They may even suggest new medications that could fit your ailment and needs better. Be sure to write down or save the information they give you to look back on.


Keep your pharmacist and these 10 points in mind when you take, order, or are prescribed any medication!