Medicines come in many different forms e.g. tablets, capsules, liquids, inhalers, drops, patches, creams, ointments, lotions, pessaries, suppositories and injections. These can include prescribed medicines, or those purchased from a pharmacy or supermarket. Prescribed medicines should only be used by the named individual they are prescribed for, and must not be shared with others.
Some medicines are taken by mouth, while others are applied to the body. Injections can be given by the patient themselves or a healthcare professional may administer these to the patient.
Medicines also include vitamins, minerals, herbal and homeopathic products. These are called complementary medicines, and are often taken in addition to prescribed medicines.
What is medicines management?
Medicines management helps individuals to obtain the best possible effect from their medicines. To be effective, medicines must be taken as directed, however the efficacy of certain medicines can be affected by food, drinks, other medicines and even the time of day you take your medication. Medicines management can advise you about this and also how to avoid or minimise side effects to help you take your medicines as intended, with minimum disruption to your normal life.
Questions you can ask about your medicines.
To get the best out of your medicines it's useful to have any questions you may have written down. You can ask your doctor, Pharmacist or nurse about your medicines. You can find more information and some useful guides about what to ask from The Patient Information Forum, including a special guide to use with children. The information found on this site is available in a number of different languages.
Safely storing and disposing of your medicines
All medicines must be stored out of the sight and reach of children, ideally in a locked cabinet or secure location. Do not remove medicines from the original packaging as this contains important information about your medicine. Never take any medicine that is past the expiry date.
For medicines to be effective they must be stored correctly. Usually medicines are stored in a cool, dry place. This should be out of direct sunlight and heat sources and not in a bathroom or kitchen where the humidity can affect the stability of the medicines. Never take any medicines that have changed colour or consistency without first checking with your pharmacist.
Some medicines must be stored in a fridge. They should be kept in their original packaging and kept away from food. Check the expiry date as refrigerated medicines often have a shorter expiry date than non refrigerated medicines.
Do not keep old or unwanted medicines. These should be returned to your community pharmacy for disposal. Never put them in the dustbin or flush them down the toilet.
To reduce the amount of waste medicines, only order what you need and have an annual medicines use review from your community pharmacist. This helps you to understand more about the medicines you take for your condition and prevents unnecessary prescriptions being issued.
If in doubt, ask your local pharmacist who will be able to give you good advice.
If you are planning on going on holiday you may need a course of travel vaccines. Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist can help you identify which vaccines may be required. Allow at least two months before you travel to ensure you are fully protected. You may also require malaria tablets, again your doctor, pharmacist or nurse can advise you about this.
Ensure you have sufficient prescription medicines with you to last until the end of your holiday (and a few days extra in case of delays) plus any other over the counter medicines you require. Take a copy of your prescription with you in case you need this information.
It may be helpful to obtain a letter from your doctor stating your medical condition and listing the medicines you take.
Think about how you will manage your medicines whilst on holiday or travelling. Keep your medicines in your hand luggage. If you are taking needles and syringes check that the airline will allow you to take these on board with you. Consider, will there be a fridge for you to store your insulin? How will you dispose of your sharps? Some non European countries restrict the types of medicines you can take into the country with you. Before you travel check with the relevant embassy what can legally be taken into the country.
Ensure you have adequate travel insurance to cover your medical conditions whilst overseas. The European Health Insurance Card entitles holders to receive the same medical treatment as a resident of the country they are visiting. However, this is often much less than we receive from the NHS so additional insurance is recommended.
How a pharmacist can review your medication
Your local community pharmacy can arrange for you to have a Medicines use Review (MUR). This is a free service which allows you to talk about your medicines and address any concerns you may have. This is normally carried out on an annual basis. In addition your doctor or nurse may also review your medication in the GP practice.
Repeat prescribing from your GP
For patients established on regular medicines, your doctor may allow you to request repeat prescriptions without seeing a prescriber. This will normally be for set length of time, then you will be asked to visit the practice for a review.
It is important to allow at least 48 hours for the practice to process your request for a repeat prescription. The procedure will be explained in the practice booklet and by the practice staff.
Often your local community pharmacy can make arrangements to pick up your repeat prescription and dispense it for you. All you have to do is pick up the medicines from the pharmacy. If this is of interest to you speak to your pharmacist about this.
How to find a Pharmacy or Healthcare Service
NHS Choices has a list of all the local community pharmacies and health care providers.
The Department of Health (DH) advises that certain groups of people receive an annual seasonal flu vaccination. These are offered to patients with certain pre-existing health conditions or who are in a defined situations e.g those living in long stay residential homes. Seasonal flu vaccinations are usually offered annually between September and early November (but may be later than this) These are free to those identified by the DH.
Some Community Pharmacies can also supply and administer the flu vaccine to those who are not included in the DH target groups. There will be a reasonable price charged for this service. Further information is available from your local pharmacist or see NHS Choices for a list of pharmacies in your area.
Prescription Prepayment Certificates (PPC)
If you will have to pay for four or more prescription items in three months or more than 14 items in 12 months, you may find it cheaper to buy a PPC. The current charge for a single prescription item is £7.40, whereas a three month PPC will cost you £29.10 and a 12 month PPC £104.00.
Telephone advice and order line 0845 850 0030