If you’re taking medicines to help with a long-term condition, or to treat an illness, taking them in the right way is important to make sure that you stay well or get better.

You should use your medicines in the way that your pharmacist has advised you to and according to the instructions included with them.

Top tips

  • Take your medicine at the correct time and according to the instructions
  • Medicines are prescribed for you – it’s not safe to share them or take someone else’s
  • Don’t take medicines after the expiry date
  • Regular stable medication can be ordered online if you have internet access and you can save time by using the Electronic Prescription Service (EPS) so you don’t have to physically go to the surgery to order and pick up the prescription
  • If you go into hospital, take your medicines with you
  • Monitor your medicines. Are they making you feel better or worse? Do you think you are experiencing side effects? If you feel worse or think they aren’t working, tell your doctor or pharmacist
  • For medicines that you have to take regularly, make sure you always have enough, especially at weekends, public holidays and when you are on holiday – but please do not stock pile them.

Visit to find out how your medicine works, how and when to take it, possible side effects and answers to common questions.

Avoiding medicines waste

We know that a lot of medicines are wasted, which has a cost implication for the NHS locally. There are some simple steps you can take to reduce medicines waste and save the NHS money:

  • If you receive a repeat prescription you are no longer using, tell your GP
  • Don’t stockpile medicines as they could go out of date. Order your medicines yourself as you know what you need and what you don’t to reduce stockpiling.
  • Take any unused medicines back to the pharmacy for safe disposal – don’t put them down the toilet or in the bin.
    If your GP prescribed you too much, tell them – sometimes you know how much you need best

Help with your medicines

If you’re unsure about your prescription, have any questions about taking your medicine or have concerns about its effects, you can visit a local pharmacy and talk to a pharmacist.

Pharmacy advice is free and you don’t need to make an appointment. Your community pharmacist can answer any questions you have about your medication.

If you are regularly taking medicines for a long-term illness, are taking more than one prescription medicine or have recently been discharged from hospital, you can also ask your pharmacist for a Medicines Use Review. This is a free, confidential and dedicated appointment with a pharmacist, where they can talk to you about how you are getting on with your medicines.​

The appointment will usually take place in a private consultation area in your local pharmacy, where you regularly get your prescriptions.

At the appointment your pharmacist will:

  • Help you to find out more about the medicines you are taking
  • Spot any problems you are having with your medicines
  • Make sure your medicines work well for you.  There may be easier ways to take them, or you may find you need fewer medicines than before.
  • Give you advice on what to do with medicines you don’t need anymore

The pharmacist will send a report of any suggestions for prescription changes to your doctor.

Read more about pharmacy

If you take multiple medicines

If you’re taking a lot of different medicines to help with a number of health problems, remembering to take them at the right times can be difficult.

Talk to your pharmacist who can help you. Options could include using a multi-compartment compliance aid. This shows the days of the week to help you take your medicine on the correct day and at the correct time. It also allows your family, carer or health professional to make sure that you are taking your medicines correctly.

Other kinds of support could include reminder charts, dose record charts, or medicine labels with larger writing to make it easier for you to read the instructions. Your pharmacist will work with you to find out what’s right for you.

Medicines packaging

Sometimes the regular medicine that you order will come in different packaging than the one you are used to. The active ingredient in the medicine is the same, although the manufacturer and the packaging may be different.

The reason why you sometimes receive medicines that look different from your normal brand is because when the pharmacist orders medicine, they can’t control which brand of generic drug they will be sent. The proper drug name is called the generic name. Different drug companies can use the generic drug to produce different brands.

Be reassured that all brands are equally effective, although the packaging and name may be different. As always, if you are worried about your medicines talk to your pharmacist.​