Importance of Knowing Your Medicines

By Pennie Schuh FNP-C


            Knowledge of medications and what they are prescribed for is of great importance for care providers (doctors, nurse practitioners & physician assistants) and patients alike. Many patients do not know the names of all their medications, much less what they are for, and sometimes what the dose is. Patients are often under the impression that providers know all their medications and what they look like—we do not. They often think all their care providers are linked together and know what each other provider prescribes—we are not all linked together and, therefore do not know what they are prescribing you. There is often confusion of medications and failure on the patient’s part to keep medication lists or to update them.

            Many patients do not understand the importance of knowing what their medications are, taking the medications exactly as prescribed, alerting their care providers when the medications are not working or when they have decided to stop the medications on their own; resulting in outcomes and lab results that are not therapeutic. This failure to self-educate/awareness can also lead to polypharmacy and inadvertent medication overdoses or adverse interactions. This is also very frustrating for your care provider to properly care for you and monitor outcomes and progress in your healthcare. We want you to be healthy and feel good.

Common things patients say regarding their medications:

“My Provider always asks me what I’m taking but there’s so many, I can’t remember them all.” That’s why it is important to record them somewhere & keep a list with you so your provider can review any changes & discuss any concerns.

“It’s in your computer, I told you them the last time I was here, what they are.” You may have told your provider last time but since then, there may be changes. This Provider’s computer may not “talk” to your other providers and it’s important to verify your medications, how they are working & if they are being taken as directed.

“She wanted me to bring them in but I forgot/there were too many.” It’s best to bring in your meds in the original bottles for your provider to review for errors. It happens: wrong dose, times, meds! Providers want to keep you safe.

“I take that green pill, you know, the one for blood pressure.” Providers do not know what your pills look like. Different companies make pills differently. Different doses often come in different colors and sizes.

“I can’t say them so, how can I remember them. They have more than one name!” That is why a list is so important. Knowing both the Trade name and the Generic is not important. Learn the easiest one and what the medication does.

“I don’t know what they are or what they do, that’s your job.” It’s your Providers job AND your job to know your medications. You Provider empowers you to be your Best Self-care Advocate by knowing your medications.

“That’s an herb/supplement, that’s not medication.” Herbs, supplements, birth-control, inhalers, patches are all considered medication and important to tell your Provider if you are taking anything in addition to what your prescribed

So…what can you do???

Attached is a list for your medications. Fill it out & make copies. Carry one with you at all times. Make a copy for your spouse and adult children or care givers in case of an emergency



ALWAYS take meds as directed!

“If one is good, two must be better.” NO! There is potential for harm, organ failure or death if your medication is not taken as directed. The right dose at the right time and the right route is very important for your medication to work properly and keep you healthy.

Finish ALL antibiotics unless directed by your Provider to stop.

Sometimes patients with stop taking an antibiotic when they feel better and “save the rest for next time.” This leads to resistance- antibiotics stop working because you did not get all the needed antibiotics to kill all the bacteria—making it harder to fight the “next time.”

Tell your provider ASAP if a med is not working.

It is important to communicate this with your provider. The dose may need to be adjusted, it may take more time for the medication to get in your system to be effective, an additional medication may need to be added or there may be a food or a “drug/drug interaction” where one medication is affecting the action of another.

Know your Allergies.


 Is it an allergy or a side effect? What happens when you have an allergic reaction? Do you have an Epi-pen & know how to use it?

Poison Control: 1-800-222-1222.    Available for questions or concerns 24/7

Common types of medications:

Antihypertensives/blood pressure medications:  


Beta Blockers, end in “Lol”: Atenolol, Carvedilol, Metoprolol, Labetalol

Calcium Channel Blockers, end in “Pine”: Amlodipine, Nicardipine, Nifedipine, Diltiazem, Verapamil

ACE inhibitors, end in “Pril”: Benazepril, Enalapril, Lisinopril

Angiotensin Receptor Blockers-“ARBs” end in “Sartan”: Losartan, Valsartan, Olmesartan   


Diabetic medications:

Pills-Metformin/Glucophage, Actos, Avandia, Glimepiride/Amaryl, Glipizide/Glucotrol, Glyburide/DiaBeta, Starlix, Prandin  Insulins- NovoLog, Humalog, Regular-Humulin R/Novolin R, NPH, Levmir, Lantus, NovoLog 70/30, HumuLog 50/50, NPH/Reg

Lipid lowering agents:

“Statins”: Lovastatin/Mevacor, Pravastatin/Pravachol, Rosuvastatin/Crestor, Atorvastatin/Lipitor, 

“Fibrates”: Fenofibrate/TriCor, Gemfibrozil/Lopid, Fenofibric acid/Fibricor

“Bile acid sequestrants”: Cholestramine/Questran, Welchol, Colestipol

Foods that can affect certain Medications:

grapefruit juice, greens, alcohol, caffeine, foods with Tyramine, foods high in potassium, salt substitutes.          

Your care provider works very hard to keep you healthy and living your life to it’s fullest. It is important to be a self-care advocate. Do not be afraid to ask questions. PS, FNP-C