Things to learn from any given drug entry at AZ Meds

Each pill profile in AZ Meds contains the following information:

The generic name is the common name of the drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is listed along with the current brand names available for each generic drug.

Most prescription drugs are sold in more than one strength. Some drugs, such as the oral contraceptives, come in packages containing different numbers of pills. A few manufacturers reflect this fact by adding letters and/or numbers to the basic drug name; others do not. An example: Norlestrin 21 1/50, Norlestrin 21 2.5/50, Norlestrin 28 1/50, Norlestrin 28 2.5/50. (The numbers here refer to the number of tablets in each monthly packet, 28 or 21, and the amount of medication found in the tablets.) Other drugs come in different strengths: This is often indicated by a notation such as “DS” (double strength) or “Forte” (stronger).

AZ Meds lists generic and brand names (e.g., Norlestrin) together only where there are no differences in basic ingredients. However, the amount of the ingredient (strength) may vary from product to product. In most cases, the different brand names and generic versions listed for each generic drug product are interchangeable with one another; you can use any version of the drug and expect that it will work for you. AZ Meds identifies those drugs for which generic versions are not considered equivalent and which should not be interchanged with a brand-name product or another generic version of the same drug.

AZ Meds will also tell you which drugs are sugar free S or alcohol free A. This is important information for people who must avoid these ingredients.

Describes the general pharmacologic class of each drug: “antidepressant,” “tranquilizer,” “decongestant,” “expectorant,” and so on.

Lists the conditions for which a drug is usually prescribed. All drugs are approved for some symptoms or conditions by federal authorities, but doctors also commonly prescribe drugs for other, as yet unapproved, reasons; these are also listed in AZ Meds. Check with your doctor if you are not sure why you have been given a certain pill.

Information on how the drug works, how long it takes for you to feel its effects, or a description of how this drug is similar to (or different from) other drugs.

Any drug can be harmful if you are sensitive to it. This information alerts you to possible important and more dangerous reactions and to physical conditions, such as heart disease, that can have serious consequences if the drug is prescribed for you.

Side effects are generally divided into three categories – those that are most common, those that are less common, and those that occur only rarely  – to help you better understand what to expect from your pills. If you are not sure whether you are experiencing a drug side effect, ask your doctor.

Describes what happens when you mix your medicine with other drugs and lists what should not be taken at the same time as your medicine. Drug interactions are more common than overdoses. Some interactions with other pills, alcohol, or other substances can be deadly. At every visit, be sure to inform your doctor of any medication you are already taking. Your pharmacist should also keep a record of all your prescription and nonprescription medicines. This listing, called a Patient Drug Profile, is used to check for potential problems. You may want to keep your own drug profile and take it to your pharmacist for review whenever a new medicine is added. You’d be surprised at how many drug interaction problems can develop.

Provides information on foods to avoid while taking your medication, whether to take your medicine with meals, and other important facts.

Tells you the largest and smallest doses usually prescribed. You may be given different dosage instructions by your doctor. Check with your doctor if you are confused about when and how often to take a pill, or why a dosage other than the one indicated in AZ Meds has been prescribed. Do not change the dose of ANY medicine you take without first calling your doctor. Drug doses often need to change with increasing age; this information is also given.

Describes overdose symptoms and what to do.

Lists important facts to help you take your medicine more safely. Includes symptoms to watch for, when to call your doctor, what to do if you forget a dose of your medicine, and any special instructions.

Pregnancy/Breast-feeding: Women who are pregnant or nursing newborn Infants need the latest information on how medicines can affect their babies. This section will help guide you on how to use medicines if you are or might be pregnant, and what to do if you must take a medicine during the time you are nursing your baby. Seniors: Our bodies change as we grow older. As an older adult, you want information about how each drug affects you and what kind of reactions to expect. This section presents the special facts you need to know about every drug and explains how your reactions may differ from those of a younger person. It describes symptoms you are more likely to develop just because you are older and how your doctor might adjust drug dosage to account for the changes in your body.

AZ Meds is a unique visual reference tool. It is intended not only to amplify the information given by your doctor and pharmacist but also to help you be a more informed consumer. If you read something in AZ Meds that does not agree with instructions you have received, call your doctor. Almost any drug can have serious side effects if abused or used improperly.