Keep Track of Your Medications to Stay Safe

Roni Shye
Roni Shye, PharmD BCGP BCACP, is a licensed pharmacist in the states of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
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Whether you use one medication or fifteen, it is important to know exactly what your doctor has prescribed for youto make sure you get the right medication and dose each time. You should also know why your meds were prescribed, and how you are supposed to take them.

It’s unfortunate but true that many people don’t know what they’re taking, let alone why. Playing a proactive role in managing your medications may not always be easy, but you can look for help from your pharmacist, doctor, or nurse.

Why should you be concerned? First, remember that your prescription (especially if it’s a generic) can be made by several different companies, and it can differ in color, shape, and dosage form from one manufacturer to the next. There are several factors that can play a role in whether or not you receive your medication in the same color or shape each time you fill. Because the appearance of your prescriptions can vary, knowing your medications inside and out can help prevent confusion.

Some possible scenarios in which you may not receive the same color or shape of your medication:

Don’t depend on the color, shape, or even dosage form to keep your prescriptions straight! You are not alone if you keep track of your prescriptions this way (for example: the white round pill in the morning, the pink oval pill at night), but many medications can look very similar. For this exact reason it is so important not to rely only on the appearance of your medication.

This is especially true if you are on a complex regimen where you take many medications—it’s more likely that you may have some that look alike.

Examples of common medications that people often try to remember by appearance:

What are some good ways to keep track of your medications?

Keep your up-to-date medication list on you and bring it with you to all health care appointments. Your list will help give you a reference if you have questions about your prescriptions, or if you forget what you are taking and why.

It’s also important to remember to keep your list current and update it when there are any changes, including dose increases or decreases, changes to your directions, or you start or stop taking a medication.

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