How to get the best results

You’re much more likely to take your medicine, and stay on it, if you understand how it helps you. If you have trouble remembering to take your medicines, we have tools to help.

Photo of pillbox

People with ongoing health conditions may take many different kinds of drugs. This can make medication management — taking the right medications at the right time, avoiding drug interactions and side effects — particularly challenging, especially for people with memory problems.

To get the best results and avoid unnecessary risks, all medicine, including over-the-counter products, needs to be taken properly.

Do’s ...

  • Know the reasons a medication was prescribed before taking it. If you aren’t sure, ask your doctor.
  • Follow the instructions exactly or let your doctor know why you didn't.
  • Report any side effects to your doctor.
  • Refill prescriptions before they run out.
  • Keep a list of all the medicines you’re taking and share it with your doctor during office visits. View your medication list online.
  • Check with your doctor before you start taking any over-the-counter drugs, herbal remedies, or supplements.
  • Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you have questions about your prescriptions.

Don'ts ...

  • Don’t stop taking a medicine without checking with your doctor — even if you feel better.
  • Don’t take too much or too little of your medication.
  • Don’t take medicine prescribed for someone else, and don't give yours to anyone else.
  • Don’t drink alcohol while you are taking medicine unless your health care provider says it’s okay.

Remember to take your medications

Having a system that makes sense to you can help you keep track of your prescriptions.

  • Organize your medications each week using a pill box. Ask your pharmacist where to get one.
  • Mark a calendar or chart.
  • Set a regular routine for taking your medications (such as at mealtime, bedtime, or when you brush your teeth).
  • Place sticky note reminders someplace you will notice.
  • Try using your watch, clock, or phone alarm.
  • Use our new medicines form (PDF).

Be safe

Use and dispose of all your medications safely.

  • See a list of drugs that should be avoided or used cautiously. Older adults can be sensitive to their side effects.
  • If you’re traveling, bring enough medication for your trip plus a few extra days. Keep your medications in a carry-on bag and not in checked luggage.
  • Don’t keep drugs that are old or that have expired — learn safe drug disposal.
  • Don’t change your medicine from its original bottle to another one.
  • Store your medicine as directed and away from heat, direct light, and damp places.
  • Keep all medications out of reach of children and tightly capped.
  • Don’t be taken in by slick advertising or unproven claims of remedies, and learn how to protect yourself against consumer scams.

Cut costs

Medications can be expensive, and the cost of several prescriptions adds up quickly. Save money by following these tips.

  • Request formulary drugs first. A formulary is a list of medications covered under your prescription drug benefit.
  • Use generic drugs when you can. Ask your doctor if generic forms of your medication are available and appropriate for you. Generics used by Kaiser Permanente work just as well as brand-name drugs, and cost less.
  • Have your refills mailed to you at no additional charge. Members in some regions have a mail order incentive benefit that can save them a copayment on every 100-day supply of pills or other medicine. If you regularly take the same medications, check your Evidence of Coverage or contact Member Services to see if your plan offers this benefit.

Reviewed by Tracy Lippard, MD, July 2019