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Top-10 Medication Mistakes: Doctors' tips for taking your medicine


Have you ever taken your medicine wrong? Do you think you even knew it? With all the information you get at a doctor’s appointment, forgetting a few details is understandable. But sometimes, those details can make a big difference.

We asked doctors, what are some of the most common medication mistakes you see? Here are 10 top picks.

See the sidebar at the bottom for the doctors' bios.
Share your medication-taking experiences here.



“Patients with colds try to loosen the thick mucus and take Benadryl, or other first-generation antihistamine, because it is a ‘sinus’ medication. This only serves to further thicken the nasal secretions. Mucinex should be used for this purpose.”


“Sometimes, if patients stop taking certain antidepressants like Elavil cold turkey they can experience symptoms such as sleep difficulty and dizziness.”


“Certain herbs—St. John’s Wort, in particular, which people use as a mild antidepressant— have a chance to not only interact with other antidepressants but can, as well, interfere with the liver’s processing of heart medications like Digoxin and blood thinners like Warfarin.”


“One of the most common mistakes I have seen is patients taking over-the-counter medication to treat their headaches. OTCs like Excedrin and Advil taken in excess and for an extended period of time can actually increase the severity and frequency of migraines [by causing a rebound effect].”

Acid Reflux

“Proton-pump inhibitors—Prilosec, Nexium, Prevacid and others—are among the most widely prescribed medications. They are used primarily for acid reflux and peptic ulcer. They are activated by food and so should be taken about 15 to 30 minutes before a meal but many people take them in the morning and then skip breakfast. They shouldn’t.”

Erectile Dysfunction

Viagra mistakes are common. In order for Viagra to work it must be in your bloodstream and you must be sexually stimulated. Many patients take Viagra, jump right into bed, and of course the pill doesn’t work because they didn’t wait long enough for it to be absorbed. Later, when the medication is in their bloodstream, they are no longer sexually stimulated, so the pill doesn’t work.”

Heart Problems

“Patients should be aware that ACE inhibitors for high blood pressure/history of heart attack can cause a dry cough. I have seen this even months after initiating this medicine, and patients think they have an upper respiratory infection and doctors will give them antibiotics without success. I had at least one patient who was on lisinopril, or Lotrel— which has an ACE inhibitor component—who had been told she had reflux disease and was prescribed antacids. The she saw a pulmonologist and finally came to me for a physical, and in the review of systems, the complaint of a cough came up. I was able to clear up the cough simply by taking the patient off the Lotrel.”

“Many patients fail to stop aspirin before a surgical procedure. This could lead to a life-threatening bleed.”

Other Chronic Disease

“Some patients make up medication schedules that just make life more difficult. For instance, a person on three once-aday medications might take each at a different be taking them all at once in the morning and be done with it.”


“I thought of the following advice I always give my patients when I prescribe the antibiotic Levaquin. Since the medicine can commonly cause ‘fogginess/inability to concentrate,’ do not take first thing in the morning. Additionally, taking it before bed can cause insomnia. Therefore, a good time to take Levaquin is late afternoon—about 4 or 5 p.m.—with a small snack.”

Children's Health

“Prescribed medication is [sometimes] not given to the end of the prescription if the child is feeling better or for whatever other reason. The leftover medication is then used for the same child if the illness recurs or is given to a sibling that may have the same illness.” (See side box for more on this.)


What are your medicine-taking tips? Please share your tips and stories in the comments section below.

Last updated and/or approved: April 2009.
Original article appeard in March/April 2009 print issue.

Comments (1)add comment
written by athrune , November 01, 2010

One of the most common mistakes is prescribe Kamagra to guys how only need psychological help.
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