Correct use of medicines

The correct use of a medicine is a sum of many things. Before you start to use a medicine, find out what is important in its use.

To ensure the best possible benefit from your medicine, be active and ask the following questions from a health care professional. This also gives you a possibility to avoid adverse reactions to the medicine.

Is the medicine suitable for me?

  • Is the medicine intended for my ailment?
  • Are there any things that prevent me from using the medicine, such as allergy to a substance in the medicine, other medication or a long-term illness. In particular, liver and kidney diseases might prevent you from using some medicines.

How much should I take the medicine?

  • If the dose is too small, the medicine will not bring about the desired effect. A too large a dose might cause adverse reactions or even a poisoning.
  • If the medicine is a prescribed one, the prescribing physician will give you personalised instructions on its use. The instructions for use are attached to the package in a pharmacy.
  • In over-the-counter medicines sold in pharmacies, the instructions for use are in the package.
  • Doses for children are determined by age and possibly by weight.

How should I take the medicine?

  • The most common method is swallowing, but there are also medicines that are applied directly into the eye or ear or on the skin.
  • Taking tablets might require care as well. For example, there are tablets that must not be halved, crushed or chewed.
  • Always check the correct method of use from the package leaflet.

At what time of day should I take the medicine?

  • You can usually choose the time yourself.
  • However, medicines that are a part of a course of drug therapy or medicines that are taken for a prolonged period should be taken at the same time every day.
  • If a medicine is to be taken several times a day, you should check whether it should be taken at regular intervals. For example, one antibiotic tablet three times a day means that you should take a tablet every eight hours.
  • Some medicines must be taken at a certain time of day. For example, anti-cholesterol medicines are taken in the evening, since the body manufactures the highest quantity of cholesterol at night.
  • There are medicines that must be taken at exactly the right time to obtain the desired effect, such as insulin injections or nitroglycerin that is used to treat heart conditions.

Should I take the medicine during a meal or without?

  • Food might increase, decrease or have no effect on the absorption of a medicine.
  • Usually the timing of the taking of a medicine and meals has no effect on the efficacy of the medicine.
  • On an empty stomach means that the medicine must be taken at least an hour before a meal or 2 to 3 hours after it.
  • With food means that you should eat for example a sandwich at the same time you take the medicine.
  • Before a meal means that you should take the drug 15–30 minutes before the meal.

For how long should I take the medicine?

  • Medicines taken when necessary include for example pain relievers taken for a headache. Check from the package leaflet or your physician how long the medicine can be used in a prolonged fashion.
  • Antibiotics are usually taken as a course of treatment.
  • Long-term medication is intended to be used during the entire illness. A diabetic, for example, might use insulin throughout his/her life.

What other things should I remember when using the medicine?

  • The package leaflet will mention any special things to consider when using the medicine.
  • For example, you cannot use dairy products or stay in sunlight when using certain medicines.
  • Some medicines cannot be stored in room temperature, but must be kept in a refrigerator instead.

How should I monitor myself during the medication?

During medication, you should monitor yourself to see if the medicine has the desired effect and whether any adverse effects appear.