1.Know Which Molecule You are Taking
When you first get your medication, check the 2 names of the drug: the brand name and the generic name. The brand name (e.g. PanadolTM, marketed by GSK ) is usually the most prominent one. It is the name the manufacturer gave to the molecule. The molecule itself is actually the generic name (e.g. Paracetamol) and can be found in many other pills marketed under different brand names. For example, paracetamol is marketed under names such as DolipraneTM, PanadolTM or TylenolTM. The difference between these medications are the inactive ingredients (e.g. used to bulk up the pill, make it more resistant to heat or shaking or control the release of the medicine in your gut).
Extra information for science-y people:
The first company that discovers the molecule has the exclusivity to sell it for a number of years. When the patent (=exclusivity) is over (around 20 years), any manufacturer can sell the drug. We call these medications “generics “
2.Check the Indication
This will help you understand why you are taking the medicine and give you an idea of the dose and duration of treatment. For example a pain medication will be taken for a few days and a medication for hypertension will usually be taken for life.
3.Understand the Contra-indications as Well as the Precautions/Warnings
A contra-indication is a condition that makes you completely unable to take the specific drug. For example if you are allergic to penicillin then some antibiotics like AugmentinTM will be contra-indicated.
Precautions/warnings mean that if you are taking the medication and have a special condition (e.g. hypertension) you might be at risk of side effects. Your physician will decide if the benefits of taking the drug outweigh the potential risks and make advise you on whether you should take the drug or not.
If you are already taking several medications (e.g. hypertension, diabetes, anxiety), it is always useful to check the “Interaction” section. Some medications can affect the dose or the efficacy of others. Again, your physician will advise on what it is best to do.
5.Side Effects/Undesirable Effects
This section is commonly read by patients and often confused with the “contra-indications” one.
In this section, the manufacturer details the side effects (type and frequency of occurrence) that have been reported by patients treated by the medication.
Disclaimer: This article serves as a guide and should not replace a consultation with healthcare provider. Always contact your healthcare provider before taking a medication.