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Use Medicine Safely

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is part of the United States Government. One of FDA's jobs is to make sure that medicines are safe and effective.

When you don't feel well, medicines can help you get better.

But they can hurt you if you don't take them according to instructions from your doctor or pharmacist. Before using any medicine, read the label!

This booklet tells you how to use medicine safely.

There are two kinds of medicine:

Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medicine

Medicine you can buy without a doctor's prescription.

Prescription Medicine

Your doctor writes a prescription that tells the pharmacist what you need. You pick up the medicine at the drug counter.

Your doctor or pharmacist can help you take medicine safely.

Medicine labels may be hard to read. Make sure you ask questions.

Taking more than one medicine without telling the doctor might hurt you.

When you talk to your doctor and pharmacist:

  • tell them which medicines you are taking now
  • tell them if you have ever had problems with medicine
  • make a list of your medicines to show them, or bring your medicine with you

Protect yourself and your baby. Medicine may hurt your baby. Tell the doctor or pharmacist if:

  • You are pregnant.
  • You are nursing a baby.

Before you take any kind of medicine, make sure you know:

  • What it is.
  • Why you should take it.
  • If it could make you feel sleepy or cause some other problem for you.
  • When to take it.
  • How much to take.
  • How long to take it.
  • You also need to know what you should not have while taking your medicine.

Some foods and drinks can make medicine work too fast. Some can make it work too slow—or not at all.

Smoking cigarettes also can change the way your medicines work. Drinking alcohol when you are taking some medicines can be very dangerous.

Some medicines can cause problems even if you take them the right way. Call your doctor or pharmacist if you think your medicine is making you feel worse.

Here are three safety ideas:

  1. When you buy medicine, make sure no one has already opened it.
    At the store, check to see if the package was opened.
    If it was, tell a person working in the store.
    At home, see if the medicine looks normal. If it doesn't, don't use it! Take it back to the store.
  2. Never ever take someone else's prescription medicine.
  3. Keep all medicines away from children. A locked cabinet is best.

Do you have questions about your medicine? The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) may have an office near you. Look for their number in the blue pages of the phone book. You can also contact the FDA through its toll-free number, 1-888-INFO-FDA (1-888-463-6332).

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