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What NOT to Do With Your Prescription Medication

This post is part of our "Ask an Expert" blog series. In this post, Ken Majkowski, Pharm.D and Chief Pharmacy Officer at FamilyWize , explains three "don'ts" for your prescription medications. Ken brings more than 40 years of healthcare experience to the FamilyWize team, including 14 years of clinical pharmacy experience in retail, hospital, and home care. Read his full bio here.

In healthcare, there are very few universal "dos and don'ts." Every patient is unique and you should always discuss your healthcare questions with a qualified medical professional to understand what is right for you. That said, today I am sharing three "don'ts" - or three things never to do - when it comes to your prescription medications.

Do NOT Split a Pill Without Speaking to Your Pharmacist First

Pill splitting is a common practice and often encouraged by clinicians and payers as a way to save money. But,

before you split (or crush) any pill at home, please speak with your prescribing pharmacist first. Why? Because not every pill is approved to be split. If the FDA can ensure that each half of a split pill will contain the same amount of active ingredients, then it will approve the drug for splitting. If a tablet is FDA-approved to be split, this information will be printed in the "HOW SUPPLIED" section of the Rx label insert and in the patient package insert. Also, the tablet will be scored with a mark indicating where to split it. If the tablet is not scored and you do not see any related information on the label, then the FDA has either not approved it to be split or it has not evaluated that particular drug. Pills that are extended release or coated should also not be split. The release of the drug in your body is dependent on the whole pill being ingested as is. Never try to split a capsule. It is important to note that splitting a pill that is not approved to be split may not be safe.

If you are having a difficult time swallowing a pill, please speak with your doctor or pharmacist. He or she may be able to help.

Do NOT Store Your Medications in a Hot or Humid Environment, Such as in a Car During the Summer or in a Small Bathroom Where You May Shower

Many medications should be stored at room temperature, which is considered to be 68 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit and some can handle a temperature range of 59 to 86 degrees for short periods, according to Emily Holm, Pharm.D., Mayo Clinic Health System pharmacist .

Drugs that are the particularly sensitive to heat and humidity include:

  • Insulin
  • Antibiotics
  • Sublingual nitroglycerin tablets
  • Oral chemotherapy drugs
  • Any type of hormone medication
  • Many anti-seizure medications

Do NOT Adjust Your Own Dose

Though it may be tempting, adjusting your dose of a prescribed medication without consulting your doctor or pharmacist is never a good idea. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that medication is not taken as prescribed approximately 50 percent of the time. Patients have many reasons for not following their doctor's instructions - e.g. they may be trying to save money by making their drugs last longer or they may be trying to speed up their recovery by taking a double dose of antibiotic. Both approaches are dangerous and should always be avoided.

If you are struggling to pay for your family's prescription medications, FamilyWize.org can help. Regardless of your insurance situation, the Free FamilyWize Prescription Discount Card can help you to spend less money on your family's prescription drugs. Download the free app today.

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