Best Practices for Medication Safety
Grace Weatherby
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2024

Best Practices for Medication Safety

As the number of Americans relying on over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications continues to climb, so does the risk of mistaking or mishandling medication; sometimes with deadly consequences.

While medication errors often involve taking the wrong dose or taking a medication for too long, or not long enough, other issues can contribute to bad outcomes.

Follow these tips to ensure you get the maximum benefit from whatever medication you are taking.

Take as directed

Always follow the directions as provided on the label of any OTC or prescription drug, including when to take it, how much to take, and if it should be taken with food. Never double up on OTC drugs to achieve a desired dosage. If you have questions, contact your doctor or ask your pharmacist.

Store medications properly

• Store medications between 59- and 73-degrees F and in a cool, dry place. If you order drugs by mail or have them delivered, avoid having them sit on a hot porch or in a hot mailbox.

• Avoid storing medication in bathroom medicine cabinets where humidity can impact the efficacy of drugs

• If your medication requires refrigeration, keep it cool. If traveling, use a small cooler with an ice pack to keep the temperature constant.

• Don’t store medication on a windowsill as sunlight may impact how well it works.

Check expiration dates

• Don’t keep any medication beyond its expiration date. In addition to not providing the desired effect, some expired drugs may be harmful to take.

• Ask your pharmacist or local police department about safe disposal options for expired medication or call 1-800-882-9539 to find the nearest drug drop-off location. SVMC’s MedSafe collection box is available 24/7 and located in the main lobby at 100 Hospital Drive.

Stick to medication schedules

It’s important to stick to the medication schedule provided by your doctor or as outlined on the packaging. If you’re taking multiple medications over a period of time, a pill organizer can be extremely helpful. In addition, there are apps available for smartphones and smart-devices you can use to set up a reminder to take your medication. Some include alarms, refill reminders, and medicine-specific notifications, such as ‘take with food.’ 

Report side effects immediately

If you experience side effects, contact your doctor immediately to discuss whether you should continue your medication. NEVER stop taking a medication without consulting your doctor first.

Establish a relationship with your pharmacy

Working with a single pharmacy is the single best way to avoid potential drug interactions that can occur when you have prescriptions filled by different dispensaries. It is helpful to advise your pharmacy of all OTC medications, vitamins, and supplements that you take and to alert them of any changes to your medication protocol, both prescription and OTC.

Play it safe with kids

Always keep medication out of reach of children and never refer to it as a special treat or candy when dosing children. Always dose accurately using the provided measuring device. Never give children adult medication of any dosage. If someone other than you will be giving your child medication, be sure to provide the timing and dosage instructions in writing and to review them with the care provider.

Medicine is designed to help us feel better, stay healthy, and live longer. Getting their maximum benefit is truly in your hands.


Robert F. Sherman, Jr. PharmD, MHA, RPh is the Director of Pharmacy Services at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center.


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