Five Ways to Avoid Drug Mishaps

A CVS pharmacist offers tips for keeping medications straight.

A new study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital says that changes in a medication’s appearance can cause misuse or worse, patients stopping their medication all together. Papatya Tankut, a registered pharmacist and vice president of Pharmacy Affairs for Rhode Island-based CVS Caremark, offers these tips to make sure you feel confident when taking medication and avoid drug mishaps.

1. Keep medications separate. “Even when traveling, avoid putting pills in the same bottle to avoid confusion,” Tankut says.

2. Notice the details. “If you take medication on a regular basis, always be aware of a pill’s design – like shape, pattern, color, identifiers or imprints including numbers, names and letters, and sometimes a logo,” she says.

3. Go online. “The Drug Information Center available on as well as the CVS/pharmacy Mobile smartphone app can help identify medications with descriptive images based on shape, color and imprint,” she says. “The Pill Identifier lets people search by color, shape, and markings on the pill to ensure the right medication is taken to treat the right medical condition.”

But, what if you aren’t a CVS customer?

4. Ask your pharmacist. “After picking up a refill, if you notice that the medication has changed shape or color, ask your pharmacist before taking it,” Tankut says.

5. Don’t go without. “Always know which drugs you can’t stop taking all at once,” she says. “Some drugs need to be tapered off gradually to prevent withdrawal or rebound effects. In some cases, going without can be dangerous so always consult your doctor before stopping any medication.”