The dos and don'ts of taking medication

Ever forgotten to complete your course of antibiotics? There is a correct and incorrect way of taking medication, and here's why taking medication correctly is so important

24 August 2010
by Philippa Hudson

Sometimes, what you don’t know can hurt you – especially when it comes to medication. How often have you popped a pill without even looking at the package insert or not bothered to finish a prescribed course of antibiotics? These actions can have serious consequences – which is why we’ve got all the dos and don’ts of taking medicine safely right here at your fingertips!

  • DO tell your pharmacist about all other medication and supplements you are taking at the same time. Even a simple vitamin supplement might interfere with the medication, and some combinations can be downright dangerous – for example, taking blood thinners at the same time as aspirin can increase your risk of bleeding.
  • DO tell your pharmacist if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to fall pregnant. Some medicines can interfere with foetal development and cause birth defects.


Antibiotics kill disease-causing bacteria but they also kill the ‘good’ bacteria in your gut. Taking probiotics at the same time will help restore the balance of flora.

  • DO take the medication exactly as it is prescribed – the right amount, at the right time, for the prescribed length of time. And be sure to heed any comment about taking it with food or without.

Clicks pharmacist Dhiren Garach explains: ‘The absorption and efficacy of medicine largely depends on the presence or absence of food in the stomach. In some cases the medicine should be taken before food for better absorption, but in others after food, to avoid irritating the gastrointestinal tract.’
There are also some medications that interact badly with certain foods – for example, one should avoid dairy products when taking antibiotics containing tetracycline as it can affect the absorption of the drug.

  • DO tell your pharmacist if you have any allergies or have had previous allergic reactions to medicines, such as penicillin.
  • DO store your medicines properly. Keep them out of reach of children, and follow your pharmacist’s storage instructions. Insulin, most vaccines and prepared antibiotic syrups need to be kept in the fridge. Other medicines are fine if kept under 25°C, while some may need to be kept out of sunlight.
  • DON’T stop taking medication partway through the course, even if you are feeling better. You need to make sure you completely eradicate the germs that have been making you ill. And failing to finish a course of antibiotics might make the germs more resistant to the drug – making it harder to cure you the next time you get sick.
  • DON’T share your medicines with anyone else – you don’t know what medical conditions they have, or what other drugs or supplements they are taking, which could lead to dangerous results. For example, giving aspirin to some asthmatics may bring on a severe asthma attack.
  • DON’T use your medication past its expiry date – you wouldn’t eat food that was past its best, so why take the risk with expired pills?
  • DON’T buy your medicines from an unreliable source – the drugs could be fake, expired or stolen and you won’t receive useful advice from your pharmacist.
  • DON’T remove your medication from its original container. You may lose track of the expiry date and the patient information leaflet, and it may become contaminated if it’s kept in the same pillbox as other medicines.
  • DON’T drink alcohol when you’re taking medication. And go easy on other stimulants too, says Garach. ‘Coffee, due to the high concentration of caffeine, should be taken in moderation with certain medication.’
  • DON’T throw leftover medicines in the dustbin, especially if you have small children in your home. ‘Medicine always needs to be discarded in a fashion that is environmentally safe,’ says Garach. ‘If a person wishes to discard their expired or unwanted medicine, they can take it to their Clicks Pharmacy. We forward that medicine to a waste disposal company for proper destruction of hazardous waste.’



• You can even order your chronic medication to be delivered to your holiday
address if you are away!
• Free delivery of your chronic medication every 28 days.
• You save money because delivery to your address of choice is free.
• As a Clicks ClubCard member you earn Plus Points off your dispensing fee!
To register, call Clicks directmedicines on 0861 444 405 – the rest will be done for you.