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Last Updated
April 19, 2017

Talk About Your Medicines: Safe use. Safe storage. Safe disposal.
October 2015

October is NCPIE's 30th Talk About Your Medicines Month


October 2015 marks the 30th Talk About Your Medicines Month. TAYMM is an annual opportunity to focus attention on the value that better medicine communication can play in promoting better medicine use and better health outcomes. Initially created by NCPIE and our health education stakeholders as “Talk About Prescriptions Month,” TAYMM has grown and expanded to stimulate conversations between consumers and their healthcare providers about all the types of medicines they may take, with a focus on what to know about a medication in terms of expected health outcomes, possible side effects, benefits and potential risks.

Our Theme: Safe use. Safe storage. Safe disposal.

Our milestone anniversary theme is “Talk About Your Medicines: Safe use. Safe storage. Safe disposal.” This theme captures a core purpose of NCPIE’s mission, outreach, education and collaboration with stakeholders and health advocates: to promote better health and the wise use of medicines through trusted communication.

NCPIE has partnered with the CHPA Educational Foundation (KnowYourOTCs.org) on additional consumer messaging related to safe disposal of medications as part of this year’s Talk About Your Medicine’s month focus on Safe Use. Safe Storage. Safe Disposal. See below under: Tools You Can Use: Safe Disposal.

NCPIE partnered with FamilyWize and Dr. Linda Bernstein to help educate consumers on the smart, safe use of prescription medications and on cost-saving tools and resources that are available to help those with high prescription medication costs. FamilyWize, a community service partnership focused on improving the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities, launched a new educational campaign in support of NCPIE’s “Talk About Your Medicines” month. The centerpiece of the campaign, called “Live Healthy, Live Smart”, is the release of a free, educational eBook for consumers that provides valuable information about prescription medications — from how to talk to your pharmacist to how to get the best prices at the pharmacy. Click here to download the eBook: Live Healthy. Live Smart. A guide to smart, safe prescription use and savings.

Conversation 1: Talk About Safe Use.

Do you feel well-informed about the medicines you take?

If you are one of the millions of Americans who takes a prescription medicine, ask yourself: “Do I fully understand the benefits and potential risks of the medicines I’m taking?” If your response is “no,” you are not alone. Recent survey data from NCPIE show:

  • 85% of healthcare professionals report that their patients adhere to their treatment plans, but only 56% of patients report high to very high adherence.
  • Approximately 62% of patients and caregivers are not aware of any safety warnings about their medicines. Yet, almost every medication comes with potential risks and side effects – some mild, some more serious - that are important to be aware of and informed about.

Better communication between you and your healthcare providers about the medications you take can help you to:

  • Understand medication side effects—for example, which ones, if any, will go away with time and those that may be experienced for the duration of being on the medicine.
  • Avoid adverse drug reactions.
  • Improve adherence to medicine regimen(s).
  • Live healthier lives.

Be proactive in asking questions of your healthcare provider, especially if you are receiving a new prescription for a new medication. Asking the following questions can help you understand how your medicine may affect you, before you start taking it. It’s also helpful to keep and share an up-to-date list (PDF) of all medicines you’re taking with your healthcare providers at every visit.

Questions to ask your healthcare provider

  1. What’s the brand and/or generic name of the medicine, and what specifically is it for?
  2. How and when do I take it, and for how long?
  3. What side effects should I expect, and what should I do about them?
  4. Should I take this medicine on an empty stomach or with food?
  5. Should I avoid any activities, foods, drinks, alcohol or other medicines while taking this prescription?
  6. If it’s a once-a-day dose, is it best to take it in the morning or evening?
  7. Will this medicine work safely with any other medicines I’m taking, including over-the-counter medicines?
  8. When should I expect the medicine to begin to work, and how will I know if it’s working?
  9. How should I store this medicine – room temperature, or in the refrigerator?
  10. Is there any additional written information I should read about the medicine?

Tools You Can Use: Safe Use

NCPIE is pleased to provide free, downloadable tools to spark better and more effective communication about the medicines you take.

Conversation 2: Talk About Safe Storage

Are your medicines in a secure location, out of reach of young children and household visitors?

Annually, more than 60,000 children — or roughly four busloads of children per day — are brought to the emergency room each year because they got into medicines that were left within reach. Safe and— appropriate medicine use includes making sure that all medicines – including both prescription and over-the-counter medicines are stored safely.

Medicine safe storage tips:

  • Store medicines in a safe location that is too high for young children and grandchildren to reach or see.
  • If children live with you or are visiting, don’t leave medicine or vitamins out on a kitchen counter or bedside table, even if you have to take the medicine again in a few hours. Instead, set a reminder for yourself.
  • Relock the safety cap on a medicine bottle.
  • Remind babysitters, houseguests, and visitors to keep purses or coats that have medicines in them up and away and out of sight when they are in your home if young children or grandchildren are present.

Tools You Can Use: Safe Storage

Conversation 3: Talk About Safe Disposal.

Is your medicine cabinet full of expired medications you no longer use? How should you dispose of them?

Just like milk, medicines have a “shelf-life” and expire. Almost all medicines can be safely disposed of by using “take-back” programs at participating pharmacies or thrown away in the household trash.

Best practices when throwing medicines in your trash:

  • Mix the medicines (do not crush tablets or capsules) with an unpalatable substance such as dirt, kitty litter, or used coffee grounds.
  • Then, place the mixture in a container such as a zip-top or sealable plastic bag, and throw the container away in your household trash.
  • When disposing of a prescription product, remove the label and/or scratch off all personal information on the label.

There are a handful of medications — primarily, strong prescription painkillers — that, because of their particular danger to children or pets who sometimes get in to trash — should only be disposed of through a drug take-back program or flushing down the toilet. The list of these medications, together with more specific disposal instructions, is available from the FDA.

Tools You Can Use: Safe Disposal

For Healthcare Professionals and Community/Workplace Event Organizers

Planning a “Talk About Your Medicines” event in your community? Contact NCPIE at ddavidson@ncpie.info and request a free toolkit. (It will be sent to you via email only.) The 2015 toolkit contains a newsletter article, Facebook and Twitter Posts and graphics that you can share.

One more thing: Follow @TweetNCPIE and “Like” us on Facebook to be part of the “Talk About Your Medicines” Month conversation!

Previous Talk About Your Medicines Month tools and resources

Note: All previous “Talk About Your Medicine” themes are “evergreen” - meaning the messages can be used throughout the year.