Always tell your physician or other health care providers about all medications you are currently taking (including prescription medication, over-the-counter medication, dietary/herbal supplements, vitamins, minerals, laxatives, pain relievers, sleeping aids, etc.).
  Always inform the physician or other health care providers about allergies or any adverse medication reactions you have experienced before accepting any new medication
  Request information about all medications prescribed in terms that you and your caregivers can understand (this includes both prescription and over-the-counter medications).
  Before accepting any new medication from the pharmacy, insist that the container be clearly labeled with its name (generic/brand), the directions for its use, and how it should be stored. Be sure that you can read the handwriting on the prescription.
  Take notes on what you learn at your doctor's office and pharmacy. You may want to have a friend or family member with you to write down information. Plan a follow-up visit with your doctor or pharmacist if you do not have time to discuss all of your concerns and ask all of your questions. Remember, your health care providers will be glad you want to know about your medicines and care.
Sources: National Council on Patient Information and Education Massachusetts Coalition for the Prevention of Medical Errors

  Is this the medicine my doctor (or other health care practitioner) ordered for me? What does the medicine look like?
  What is the name of the medicine? Is this the brand or generic name?
   What is this purpose of the medicine? What is it supposed to do? When should I expect the medicine to work, and how will I know if it is working?
  How and when am I to take this medicine? For how long? What do I do if I miss a dose?
  What are the side effects of this medicine? What do I do if they occur?
  Is this new medicine safe to take with my other medicines, including over-the-counter medicines and dietary supplements?
  What activities, food, drinks should I avoid while taking this medicine?
   Can I get a refill of the medicine? When?
  How should I store this medicine?
  Is there any written information available about the medicine? (Is it available in large print or a language other than English?)
Sources: National Council on Patient Information and Education Massachusetts Coalition for the Prevention of Medical Errors


To support your efforts to communicate with your patients about appropriate use of medicines, AHA's web site on medication safety ( includes patient and consumer brochures and drug directories, as well as tips on promoting the October "Talk About Prescriptions" Month in your community (

We've listed a sample of the tools below. We encourage you to view these guides, use them as appropriate with your patients and consumers, and send patients directly to these sites for their review as well. This is a continually developing toolbox; please contact Mary Mologne at AHA (202-626-2960; if you know of other tools that should be highlighted on the site.

We all have a responsibility to involve patients and families as active members of the health care team. Using these tools is one means to achieve that goal.

  • Your Role in Safe Medication Use: A Guide for Patients and Families is available from the Massachusetts Hospital Association and Massachusetts Coalition for the Prevention of Medical Errors;
  • Partners in Quality: Taking an Active Role in Your Health Care is available from the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania;
  • How to Take Your Medications Safely is available from the Institute for Safe Medication Practices;
  • Pharmacist's Guide to Your Medications, Medications & You, News You Can Use, and MedMaster (provides information on medications) is brought to you by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists;
  • Just Ask! is available from the U.S. Pharmacopeia;
  • 20 Tips for Patients  is available from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality;
  • Prescription Medicines and You is available from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality;
  • The FDA provides numerous resources: FDA's Tips for Taking Medicines, A Consumer's Drug Information page
  • WebMD includes basic medication safety and drug directory information.

(A link to these sites does not constitute an AHA endorsement of these organizations or tools.)


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