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Drug Safety

Drugs can treat diseases and relieve symptoms. But they can also have side effects. Improper use of drugs can do more harm than good, and even lead to serious consequences. Therefore, everybody should know more about drug safety, and follow the advice of their doctor or pharmacist while using drugs. As the elderly are more prone to side effects like stomach bleeding, they should be extra cautious, and avoid taking too many drugs unnecessarily.

General principles on drug usage

  1. Know the proper route and method of drug use. Common routes include oral, sublingual, inhalation, rectal and external application.
  2. Read the drug label carefully. Note the proper dosage to be taken, timing, desired effects and side effects of the drug; and take necessary precautions. (e.g. If the drug can cause drowsiness, do not drive or operate machines after taking the drug.)
  3. Do not take more than one drug at the same time, unless you have clarified with your doctor or pharmacist that it will not result in drug interactions. This precaution applies to herbal medicine as well.
  4. If you suspect development of drug allergy after taking medications, such as symptoms of rash, puffiness of face or lips, or shortness of breath; you should stop the drug immediately and seek medical advice.
  5. Do not use drugs after the expiry date or if the appearance has changed.
  6. Drugs should be stored in a cool dry place, but not the refrigerator unless specified. Drugs that need refrigerating, such as insulin, should be stored in the lower shelf but not the freezer; otherwise the drug effect may be affected. Drugs should be kept out of reach of children.

Use of prescribed drugs

"Prescribed drugs" are medications prescribed by the doctor after consultation. The following points should be noted while you use prescribed drugs:

  1. Follow the doctor's instructions while using prescribed drugs. Changing the dosage or frequency without supervision is dangerous, since this can lead to overdose or under-treatment.
  2. Attend regular follow up. If you experience any undesirable drug effect, discuss with your doctor to see if you need to modify the treatment.
  3. Do not share your prescribed drugs with others. Even if the symptoms are similar, the underlying diseases may be different. Wrong use of drugs may cause delay in treatment and undesirable side effects.
  4. Consult your doctor, pharmacist, or dispenser for information on adverse effect of the drugs. In general, these include nausea, constipation and dizziness. There are great individual variations in development of these side effects, and usually most of these effects will disappear after taking the drug for some time.
  5. Always remember to tell your doctor what other drugs you are taking (or show him the drug label), so that the doctor can avoid possible drug interactions.

Use of over-the-counter drugs

  • "Over-the-counter drugs" (or OTC drugs) are drugs that can be sold without doctor's prescription.
  • OTC drugs are mainly used in the treatment of minor symptoms, such as running nose, mild fever or pain.
  • Seek medical advice if OTC drugs fail to relieve your symptoms. In fact, the best practice is to consult the doctor when you feel unwell, instead of depending on OTC drugs.
  • If you have chronic diseases, such as diabetes mellitus or hypertension, you need regular medical assessment. Do not simply rely on repeat prescriptions, so as to avoid delay in treatment.