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Medicines are essentially some form of chemicals and get effected by temperature, moisture and light. Additionally tablets that are not in strips could also alter its composition if exposed to atmospheric oxygen. Some medicines including injectables are

unstable at normal room temperatures. All these alter their molecular structure and make them ineffective and some cases even harmful.
It is therefore important that medicines are stored generally in cool environment and away from sunlight . There are some which have to move thru cold chain and stored in refrigerated condition.
Several medicines have similar looking packaging and one could make a mistake in administering them and need to be kept separately. 

The medicines should be kept in safe but accessible place which is out of Children’s reach.

To meet emergency need some commonly used medicines and a first aid kit should always be at home. Please ask your physician of what medicines to keep and their purpose. Suitably label these medicines so that you can take in case of emergencythough self- administration of medicines is not recommended.

RELEVANT LINKS For further Reading:

Medication Safety at Home: How and Where to Safely Store Medicine

First-aid kits: Stock supplies that can save lives - Mayo Clinic

Where is the best place to keep your medicines at home?

Storing & Organising Your Medicines The Right Way At Home 

How to fill your Pillbox

Just like food items , fresh or packaged , medicines too have a defined shelf life.

By regulation the Pharma companies have to specify the expiry date on the medicine packaging .

Most medicines have some additional potency build in so that till the expiry period it will still be effective. Beyond expiry date the potency will be lower than the dosage recommended and will not be effective, In many. cases the degradation is rapid and the expired medicines will not be effective and could also be harmful.
There is a lot of debate on this but as a matter of caution it is advisable not to use. medicines past their expiry date. In some cases if there is emergency and new medicines are not possible to buy , they may still be used if the period beyond their expiry date is short even though the potency will be lower. 

Do consult your physician for this.
It will be prudent to buy only as much medicine as the prescription specifies and reduce keeping extra stocks.

RELEVANT LINKS For further Reading:
How Long Can You Take Medicine After the Expiration Date?

Drug Expiration Dates - Are Expired Drugs Still Safe to Take?

Drug expiry debate: the myth and the reality

Is it ok to use medications past their expiration dates? - Harvard Health

Drug Expiration Dates — Do They Mean Anything? - Harvard Health

You may be left with unwanted medicines because you got better or the doctor changed the prescription or in some cases the minimum quantity sold is higher than your needs.

By choice do not hoard unnecessary or extra medicines ,instead return them to your chemist. Many times the the chemist will not take back the medicines if it is not a full strip, they have expired or the packaging is damaged or the medicine bottles are opened.
In many cities, you can donate the medicines for use by lesser privileged people. Your own physician will be happy to take the unused medicines. 

We must be careful in throwing these medicines in the trash as some of them can be harmful to the environment.

RELEVANT LINKS For further Reading

Where and How to dispose Unused Medicines

All our bodies are different . Many of us are allergic to certain foods like , nuts allergy, gluten allergy, lactose intolerance etc. Similarly several of us have allergy to certain drugs like to sulphur drugs, antibiotics, penicillin etc.

Sometimes a drug may cause mild or severe reaction if you have an allergy .Doctors normally ask you for your known allergies before prescribing medicines.
The problem is when you do not know about your allergies and experience them for the first time.

Read instructions on the medicines, and cautionary notes regarding allergies. 

See a doctor for immediate attention in case of choking, rash, fever, breathlessness, or vomiting.

Keep track of allergic medicines for future history (to inform another doctor).

RELEVANT LINKS For further Reading

What are medication allergies

How to know if I am allergic to any medicine

All medicines are either a single chemical compound or a combination of a few. Drug companies sell them not by their generic names but they brand them with trade names. The doctors typically prescribe the medicines by their trade names that they know. 

Unless the medicine is very special and is still under patent rights
most medicines have alternate trade names with same composition.

It is possible that the name of the medicine prescribed by the doctor is not available at your nearest chemist. The chemist however has access to the data base of all medicines and can easily search and let you know of alternate brands .

If the composition is 100 % the same buy the alternate trade name or ask the doctor for an alternative. In most cases you will be able to find alternate medicines. On the internet as well you can find alternate brands with the same composition.

RELEVANT LINKS For further Reading

What if your medication is not available

Medicines are expensive and there have been reported cases of spurious look alike medicines being sold . These are very risky to take as not only they can harm you but more importantly you are not getting the treatment that was prescribed and your illness could get worse. Drug manufacturing companies are also dealing with this problem and they try to make packaging etc not easy to copy but the problem persists.

To avoid this , you must buy from well known and trusted chemists and pharmacies.

The penalties associated with spurious drugs are high and good pharmacies are very careful on how they source their supplies .You should also be vigilant to see if you suspect any unusual colour change of the packaging or poor quality printing etc

All medicines have batch numbers etc which are printed along with the price and expiry dates. Always check the batch number, manufacturing date and expiry date.

Many technologies are in the works to ensure that only genuine medicines reach you.

RELEVANT LINKS For further Reading

More about Spurious Drugs, Spurious Drugs / Counterfeit Drugs - An Overview | PharmaTutor

Control Of Spurious Drugs

6 Ways to Check Authenticity of Medicines at Home

We all have common illnesses in the family. In some cases these are fine Ina few days with some basic medications and rest . Some of these medications are Over The Counter (OTC) and are available without doctor’s prescription.

It is important to keep basic OTC medicines available at home. However these may be used with caution, only for simple ailments.

It will be advisable to ask your family doctor to make a list of common medicines you should keep at home. The doctor based on your specific needs can determine this list to be used in case of emergency even before you are able to consult a doctor. These should be all labelled with details of why and when to take them.

 Do not take medication without consulting your doctor for major symptoms. 

From time to time, please discard old and outdated medicines.

 A first aid kit is always handy for emergency use. In addition to this common handy medical devices like thermometer, oximeter, BP machine, steam inhalers, cold and hot fermentation bags , stretch bandages are good to keep. 

Your pharmacist can assist you with listing and buying some of these non drug items of the right brand. Since you do not know when these medicines will be used, take the latest batch with longest expiry date . 

RELEVANT LINKS for further reading

Common medicines to be kept at home

how to stock medicine cabinet by needs

Extra caution needs to be exercised when you are travelling. Always carry your prescriptions and last medical review reports with you just in case you need medical help and you will need to show these to the doctor in that location . For example if you have history of any cardiac episode your ECG will alter permanently and a recent ECG will help the new doctor compare if there are any additional changes .

Remember to take daily regular medicines along with you for the entire duration of the travel. You must make provision from unplanned extensions and keep extra medications. 

If you are travelling overseas the chemist there may not be familiar with Indian brands and hence it is important for you to know the main salt in your medicines.

It is advisable to carry extra OTC medicines along with you, even if you do not have symptoms right now. The chemist in another city who does not know your history, may not sell any prescribed medicine unless there is a prescription from an approved practitioners.

You must also carry some medications , specifically prescribed regular medicines in your handbag, on your person, in case you have an emergency or your flight gets late or your checked in baggage does not come on time. 

Please always carry your current medication list on your mobile phone or wallet include any vitamin supplements and OTC medicines you may be taking. 

Always have your doctors contact details handy when traveling should you have to consult him or even brief the doctors attending you in the city of travel.

RELEVANT LINKS for further reading

What medicines to carry when you are traveling

General Health Advise while travelling

Several times we have multiple ailments and we consult several specialists. For example, you may have cardiac issues and also knee or spine pain. The cardiologist and the orthopaedic will prescribe different medicines and sometimes these drugs may adversely interact . It is always good to have your general physician or your primary specialist like the cardiologist guide you.  

When ever you are visiting a doctor/ specialist always share the current medication so that they can suitably eventuate any interactions or harmful side effects.

Most doctors are aware of the adverse interactions of mixing medicines and will work out what is most suitable

RELEVANT LINKS for further reading

How to handle multiple medicines and prescriptions

Preventing Drug Interactions

Occasionally the medicines prescribed may not be suitable for you and may even harm you. Everyone, including patients, nurses, physicians, pharmacists, has a role to play in ensuring medication safety. Taking precautionary steps are extremely important to prevent adverse reactions, overdoses and death.

“A simple rule in taking an active role in ensuring safer medication practices is KNOW. CHECK. ASK.” At all stages including prescription, preparation, dispensing, administration and monitoring. KNOW your medication, CHECK if it is the right one for you and ASK if you have doubts.

RELEVANT LINKS for further reading

WHO campaign