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Consumer Health Resources: Medication Tips & Interactions

Resources and tips for patients and health consumers

"Smart" Medicine: Medication Tips & Interactions


Who can best answer your medication-related questions?

  • Your doctor?

  • A pharmacist?

  • The Internet?


What are the best times/conditions to take specific medications?

How are pills, capsules and tablets identified without the benefit of original packaging or bottles?

What information should be included in an accurate medication/supplement list in case of emergency or in preparation for a health appointment?


How can you check for drug interactions between prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, supplements, food, beverages, alcohol or pre-existing conditions?

Who can best answer your medication-related questions?

  • Your doctor (nurse, healthcare provider)

  • A pharmacist

  • The Internet

Credible information can be received from all three places, but remember that everyone is unique and only healthcare specialists (pharmacists, doctors, nurses) are trained to apply information to specific people and their unique medical histories

Medication Errors: Cut Your Risk With These Tips (Mayo Clinic)

Medication Quick Facts

  • Nearly 1/3 of US adults take 5 or MORE medications
  • ADE = adverse drug event
  • Every year, ADEs account for:
    • 100,000 hospitalizations
      700, 000 ER visits
  • ADEs affect nearly 5% of all hospitalized patients and even higher numbers of ambulatory patients

The above data is from the AHRQ Patient Safety Primer: Medication Errors

What are the best times/conditions to take specific medications?

Remember, medication is all about chemistry! READ the directions before taking any medication.

Common directions include:

  • take on an empty stomach (2 hours before or after eating)

  • take with a meal (or "when stomach is full")

  • take with a full glass of water (8 oz)

  • avoid grapefruit juice or citrus when taking this product

  • take with milk (or take without milk or dairy)

  • avoid certain activities while taking medicine (don't operate heavy machinery)

  • take at a specific time (bedtime, morning or afternoon)

    • timing when you take medications is called chronotherapy

For more information:
Using Medications Safely (American Society of Health-System Pharmacists--ASHP)
Timing When to Take Your Daily Medications (AARP)
Medicines: Common Questions Answered (NIH)

Reading medication labels

How to Read an Over-the-Counter Medication Label (ASHP)
Over the Counter (OTC) Drug Labels: Tips for Preventing Unintentional Poisonings (NCPC)

Prescription Medicine Labels: a short video from Wisconsin Literacy, Inc

How to identify pills, capsules and tablets

Drugs (pills, capsules and tablets) can be identified by imprint codes (the letters and numbers on a drug), shape, and color

Pill Identification Tool (RxList)

Pill Identifier (

Sample medication/supplement Lists

When creating a medication/supplement list, it is important to:

  • Include the medication name, dosage and how/when you take it
  • WHY you take the medicine (for what condition/disease)
  • Provide an updated MASTER list (including all medications and supplements) to all of your healthcare providers and to every pharmacy that you utilize.

Clear communication and sharing will help prevent drug interactions or overdoses.

Drug Interaction Checkers

Do I take this medication with food or without?
Can I drink (alcohol, citrus juice, milk) with these meds?
Does this medicine react with other supplements or medications that I’m already taking?

Learn to run drug interactions quickly and accurately.


Pharmacists and doctors are well-trained to review and identify possibly harmful drug interactions. You can also use online drug interactions tools to help gauge the risk prior to discussing with your doctor or pharmacist. When in doubt, contact your pharmacist or health care provider! Drug Interactions Checker
Check for multi-drug interactions including alcohol, food, supplements & diseases. Includes detailed reports for both patients and health professionals. this site also has an excellent article about drug interactions located right below the interactions search box.

Need Help?


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  • Last Updated: May 14, 2024 10:50 AM
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