"Be MedWise” Arkansas Outreach — Medicines useful only if used as directed

Medicines are safe and effective only if used as directed, said Margaret Harris, Ph.D., assistant professor-health for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. “There are more than 100,000 drug products on the market,” she said. Each has at least one active ingredient that works with your body to relieve symptoms. “With more than 1,000 active ingredients on the market, overdosing, drug interactions and drug abuse of both prescription and over-the-counter drugs are growing increasingly common." With the number of over-the-counter and prescribed medicines that might be in a family’s medicine cabinet, Harris offers tips on using medicines wisely. The tips are part of the Be Medwise Arkansas program, a health literacy initiative that pairs the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture with the UAMS College of Pharmacy and the National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE).
  • Always start by reading the entire drug facts label before using a medication. Reading the label will help you decide if you have selected the right product for you.
  • Look for an over-the-counter medicine that will treat only the problems you have.
  • Know what to avoid while taking an over-the-counter medicine to prevent a bad side effect.
  • Take the medicine exactly as stated on the label.
"When it comes to medicines, more is not better,” Harris said. “Taking too much of a medicine can be harmful. "Take only the amount recommended on the label and at the exact intervals stated on the label,” she said. Amounts are especially important when giving medicines to infants and children. "Unless labeled otherwise, adult-strength products should not be given to children,” Harris said. “Doing so could result in accidental overdosing. "To be safe, don't cut adult tablets in half or estimate a child’s dose of an adult- strength liquid product,” she said. Medicine directions can be confusing as well as too small to read. Be sure to ask a pharmacist or your doctor to explain if the directions aren't clear, Harris said. "Your health is too important to play guessing games,” she said. For more information about how to Be MedWise, contact your local county Extension agent or visit www.uaex.edu.