Information for the public

Getting the most from your medicines

Getting your medicines at the pharmacy or dispensary

The healthcare professional should check that you have all the information you need about your medicine when the medicine is dispensed (this may be at the hospital pharmacy, local chemist or dispensing doctors' surgery). Most medicines come with a patient information leaflet (called a PIL). If you're worried about anything you read in this leaflet you should discuss this with a healthcare professional.

Reviewing medicines

Your healthcare professional should understand that people sometimes don't take their medicines.

If you are taking several medicines over a long period, a healthcare professional should talk with you about your medicines on a regular basis. This may be called a 'medicines review'. The NICE guidance says that a healthcare professional should regularly review decisions about medicines. During the medicines review your healthcare professional should ask you again how you view your condition and treatment and they will probably offer you some more information.

They should ask if you have any worries about your medicines (for example, about side effects or becoming dependent) or any practical problems (such as opening bottles or packets, or the costs of prescriptions). Your healthcare professional should understand that people sometimes don't take their medicines. They may ask whether you've missed any doses recently, cut down on the dose or stopped the medicine and then started it again. This is a good opportunity for you to talk about any concerns and how your healthcare professional can help you overcome any problems. For example, some patients may want to talk about:

  • fitting medicines into their daily routine

  • cutting down or stopping medicines they've been taking for a long time

  • choosing between medicines if they think they're taking too many.

If you have a particular practical problem that makes it difficult to use your medicine, your healthcare professional might make the following suggestions.

Some possible suggestions for overcoming practical problems

  • Making a note when you take your medicine

  • Using a box with different compartments to help you remember whether you've taken your tablets

  • Special packaging that you can open more easily

  • Fitting your medicine-taking into your daily routine

  • Different ways of paying for your medicines to reduce costs

It is very important that your healthcare professional knows about any concerns you might have about side effects. They should offer you the chance to talk again about the benefits, side effects and long-term effects of your medicines and how you would like to deal with side effects. They may make some suggestions for dealing with side effects.

Some possible suggestions for dealing with side effects

  • Adjusting the dosage (perhaps reducing the strength of the medicine)

  • Changing the time when you take each dose

  • Changing to another medicine with a different risk of side effects

Your healthcare professional should encourage you (perhaps with the help of your family) to keep an up-to-date list of all medicines you are taking. The list should include prescribed medicines, those you've bought, and vitamin, mineral or herbal supplements. If you have allergic reactions or harmful effects from any medicines or supplements you should also make a note of these.

The medicines review (see the Reviewing medicines section) is an opportunity for you to think again about your treatment. At the medicines review your healthcare professional should help you to make informed choices by involving and supporting you in any decisions about medicines.