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Your Health

                                                                                                  

  
  

Drug Handling Tips

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Drug Labels
Patients should always read the labels on their drugs as they can provide important information and instructions that will ensure proper usage. Consult with your doctor and/or pharmacist if you have any questions or concerns. Drugs prescribed by clinics usually come with a label that provides the following information1:
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Dosage Form
Different drugs have different usage instructions according to their varying dosage forms. Patients should only use a drug after understanding its use and potential side effects. Consult with your doctor and/or pharmacist if you have any questions or concerns.
Oral Medication
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Pills
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Capsules
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Liquid Medicine
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Granules
Topical Drugs
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Lotion
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Patches
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Inhaler
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Sprays
Others
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Injections
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Suppositories
(E.g. Glycerin Suppositories)
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Drug Safety Q&A

1. Will keeping drugs in the refrigerator keep them fresh or make them last longer? 

Drugs should be stored according to the instructions given on its label. In general, unless a drug indicates on its label that refrigeration is required, the best idea is to keep them stored in a cool, dry place at room temperature. 

Whenever a drug enters and leaves the fridge, moisture and water particles adhere to its surface and eventually get absorbed. This could potentially diminish the drug’s potency and make it unsafe to use.

In addition, low temperature can also have a negative effect on a drug’s potency. For most drugs that require refrigeration, they should generally be stored in a temperature between 2°C to 8°C. Avoid keeping drugs in lower temperatures or inside the freezer as this would damage and change the drug’s molecular structure.2

2. Should I take my medication on an empty stomach or after a meal?

Different drugs will come with different usage instructions that are designed to help them achieve optimal results. Some drugs can cause irritation in the stomach, and it’s recommended to be taken after a meal, while others could get absorbed by food and is better to be taken on an empty stomach. You should always follow the instructions indicated on the medicine’s label. 

In general, medicines that are supposed to be taken on an empty stomach should be taken about an hour before or two hours after a meal. Taking medication after eating or with food usually means taking the medication within 30 minutes after a meal. ​​​​​​​

Unless otherwise indicated, medications should only be taken with water. Beverages such as tea, soda, soy milk, coffee, milk, and juice could all cause chemical reactions, and you should avoid taking them with your medication.3

3. What if I forget to take my medication?

Generally, patients can take a missed dose immediately if the prescription has only been missed for less than two hours. If you are closer to your next dose by the time you realize your mistake, you should skip the missed pill and wait for the next dose. Do not double your dosage for a missed pill.3

4. How many hours apart is 3 times a day?

After taking the pill, the drug will take its effect, and your body will slowly eliminate itself. It’s important to follow your dosing schedule in order to achieve optimal results. If you are not sure how long to wait between doses, you can use the numbers below as a frame of reference:4
1 dose a day:Take your medication at the same time every day
2 doses a day:Wait 12 hours between doses
3 doses a day:Wait 6 to 8 hours between doses
4 doses a day:Wait 4 to 6 hours between doses​​​​​​​

5. Is it okay to crush or break a pill to make it easier to swallow?

Unless instructed by your doctor, you should avoid breaking a pill before taking it. Certain pills have a coating layer that protects them from gastric acids (some also protect your stomach), and breaking the pill could diminish its potency.5

In addition, you should avoid breaking a sustained-release tablet as its design is to release the medicine gradually and breaking it could cause an overdose and increase the risk of side effects.6

6. Should I take a medication that is recommended by a friend?

Doctors take many things into consideration when they prescribe a medication, such as the patient’s unique physical condition and lifestyle. You should avoid taking a medication just because someone recommended it, as your physical and health conditions could be vastly different. ​​​​​​​

In addition, different illnesses could show similar symptoms but require different treatments. Using the wrong medication could potentially cause delays in your treatment and harmful side effects, among other dangerous consequences.7

7. Can I stop/change my medication on my own?

Patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure must always follow their doctor’s instructions on medications strictly and take it regularly. You must never stop your medication or change your dosage without your doctor’s approval, as this could lead to very severe consequences.8 If you experience any problems or adverse reactions while using your medication, consult your doctor or pharmacist immediately.3

8. What should I do if I keep forgetting/missing doses?

There are many ways to help remind yourself to take your medication, such as setting an alarm on your wristwatch or mobile phone. 

You could also try to create a routine by linking your medication doses with daily activity. For example, medications that require two doses a day can be taken immediately after waking up in the morning and right before going to bed at night. For 3 doses a day, you can associate them with breakfast, lunch, and dinner.4​​​​​​​

9. What is a “brand drug”?

A “brand drug” is any new medication originally discovered and developed by a specific pharmaceutical company. This involves a long, step by step process of laboratory tests, clinical trials, and scientific validation to confirm a drug’s safety, efficacy, and dosage. Once approved by the authority and registered, pharmaceutical companies can begin to sell a new drug to the public.

Resources:
  1. Good Dispensing Practice Manual. Hong Kong Medical Association. Accessed August 24 2021.
    http://www.hkma.org/download/others/Good%20Dispensing%202nd%20Edition%20Amended%20Version.pdf
  2. Proper Storage of Medications. AMPOULE. Accessed August 24 2021. 
    http://www.ampoule.org.hk/proper-storage-of-medications/
  3. Your Participation is Essential to Effective Medication Therapy. Hospital Authority. Accessed August 24 2021.
    https://www.ha.org.hk/hadf/Portals/0/Docs/Leaflets/Eng/Your_participation_is_essential_to_effective_medication_therapy.pdf
  4. Time for Taking Drugs. AMPOULE. Accessed August 24 2021.
    http://www.ampoule.org.hk/time-for-taking-drugs/
  5. School of Pharmacy “Topics on Drug Safety”. The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Accessed August 24 2021.
    http://www.pharmacy.cuhk.edu.hk/1/whatsnew/headline-drug101/
  6. Correct and Safe Medication Use - What You Need to Know!. Jockey Club Medication Safety Awareness Programme for the Elderly. Accessed August 24 2021.
    http://www.pcfhk.org/files/59445857.pdf
  7. Medication Guideline. Department of Health. Accessed August 24 2021. 
    http://www.elderly.gov.hk/tc_chi/books/files/healthy_ageing/Health8.pdf
  8. Handling Medicines Safely. Department of Health. Accessed August 11 2021. ​​​​​​​
    https://www.drugoffice.gov.hk/eps/do/en/consumer/news_informations/knowledge_on_medicines/handling_medicines_safety.html
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