2003: Educate Before You Medicate: A Prescription for Patient Safety

Welcome to the National Council on Patient Information and Education’s (NCPIE) 18th annual observance of “Talk About Prescriptions” Month.

Our Theme

Educate Before You Medicate: A Prescription for Patient Safety

With this theme, NCPIE emphasizes our roots as one of the country’s original patient safety coalitions dedicated to improving communication about the safe, appropriate use of medicines. Are you a health care professional who issues or fills prescriptions? Remember to Educate Before You Medicate! Are you a patient or caregiver who has just received a new prescription? Write your own Prescription for Patient Safety by asking questions of your physicians, pharmacists, and other health professionals – have them help you Educate Before You Medicate.

Welcome Consumers and Patients!

When you receive a prescription, did you know that there is an unwritten prescription that accompanies your medicine? This unwritten prescription comes with every medicine you take, whether it is a prescription drug, or an over-the-counter medicine that you select yourself.

This invisible "prescription" is for patient safety. It comes from information provided or offered to you by your physician, nurse, pharmacist, other health care professional; and by the manufacturer of your medicine.

How can you take advantage of this prescription for patient safety? Ask questions. Speak up! Before you start taking a new medicine, tell what other prescription, over-the-counter, and dietary supplements that you are taking. Some medicines may interact with each other, possibly causing dangerous reactions in your body.

Before you leave your doctor’s office with a prescription in hand, ask if any tests will be required while you are on this medicine to make sure it is working safely in your body. (It will be your responsibility to follow through with any such tests.)

All medicines have benefits and risks. By remembering to "Educate Before You Medicate," you can help to get the most benefit from your medicine. It’s your own prescription for patient safety.

Useful Links to Educate Before You Medicate  

U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona, MD, MPH, signs the Be MedWise “prescription” in Sept. 2003


Questions to Ask at the Doctor’s Office and Pharmacy  

NOTE: The following links are not sponsored by NCPIE.

For prescription drug assistance programs, visit:

For statistics (2003) on prescription drug utilization and expenditures, see:

“Talk About Your Medicines” Month Archive