07/11/2015 08:56 EDT | Updated 07/11/2016 05:59 EDT

Here Are Answers to Eight of the Most Common Drug Questions

Shutterstock / Dmitry Lobanov

What do you do if you forget to take a dose of your medication? Why does grapefruit juice affect the way certain drugs work? And should you hold on to your unneeded medications just in case? Sunnybrook experts in Pharmacy take on some common questions.

If drugs are sold over-the-counter, are they safer?

Every medication has risks and potential side effects, whether it's available by prescription or over-the-counter. It's important to read the label carefully and to make sure you are taking the right medication for your condition at the proper dosage.

Sometimes I forget to take my pill before bed. Should I take it in the morning instead?

Generally, as soon as you remember, take your pill. However, if it's very close to the time of your next pill, don't take two doses too close together to avoid having an unsafe amount of medication in your system. Also, be aware that some medications can make you drowsy, so if you were supposed to take a dose before bedtime, it might be risky to take it in the morning. When in doubt, check with your pharmacist.

I'm allergic to peanuts and am lactose intolerant. Are there medications I should avoid taking?

Most pharmacies can cross-check for interactions between foods and drugs. If you have a food allergy or intolerance, make sure to ask for this service.

Where should medications be stored?

Due to humidity, your bathroom medicine cabinet is not the best place to store medications. Experts recommend they be stored in a cool, dark, locked storage box that is out of reach. Health Canada reports that medication is the leading cause of poisoning in children, and those under the age of five are at highest risk. But older children are also vulnerable. Last year alone, 80,000 Canadian kids used prescription drugs to get high, many using drugs they stole from home.

Are bubble packs recommended?

Bubble or blister packs can certainly help you take your medications at the right time, especially if you're taking several medications. Bubble packs can be organized by week or month, and should offer a full description of the medications on the back. If you are interested, ask your pharmacy for more details.

Why does grapefruit juice affect certain medications? Do other citrus fruits have the same effect?

Years ago, a blood pressure medication study used grapefruit juice as the blinding agent so nobody would know what they were getting. It was discovered by pure chance that people taking the drug with the grapefruit juice experienced totally unexpected results. This happens because grapefruit juice contains flavonoids, but other citrus juices do not and are safe to take.

Do generic drugs works just as well as the brand name versions?

In Canada, there is only one standard for quality and purity of drugs set by Health Canada, and both generic and brand name drug manufacturers adhere to the same rules. Generic drugs provide equal concentrations of the active ingredients, so they should provide the same treatment as well as side effects. You may prefer one product to another, but the active ingredient will be the same.

Is it ever safe to keep your prescription after you are done with it, just in case?

Unless your doctor has asked you to hold on to your unused medication, don't. There is always the risk that old medications will fall into the wrong hands, so take it back to the pharmacy for safe disposal.

Co-authored by Monica Matys, Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook


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