What to know about high-risk medicine

high-risk medicine

Your health is important, which is why learning about the medicine you take is key to achieving your best health. There are certain types of medicine called high-risk medicine. These medicines may be administered in a more specific way than other medicines or they may cause adverse side effects when taken with certain foods or other types of medicine. Knowing which medicine may be considered high-risk medicine, what safety tips to keep in mind and what to talk to your doctor about are important factors when prescribed high-risk medicine.

Understanding what high-risk medicine means

High-risk medicine is medicine that is considered to have a narrow therapeutic index. This means that the difference between a beneficial treatment dose and a potentially harmful dose is small. There should be care and consideration when taking high-risk medicine. An acronym healthcare professionals use to remember what drugs are considered high-risk medicine is APINCH

– Anti-infectives or aminoglycoside antibiotics

– Potassium and other electrolytes

I – Insulin

N – Narcotics and other sedatives

C – Chemotherapeutic agents

H – Heparin and other anticoagulants

Commonly prescribed high-risk medicines include estrogen-containing products and medicines used to help you sleep better. See a list of high-risk medicines to avoid and alternatives you can try. Always talk to your doctor before trying new therapies.

When taking high-risk medicine, be aware of potential side effects, such as drowsiness, diarrhea, or irregular heartbeats. Keep track of any side effects you may be experiencing and talk to your pharmacist or doctor about potential solutions. Understanding what to look out for and feeling comfortable talking to your doctor or pharmacist can help you during your healthcare journey. Here are 3 tips to think about when prescribed high-risk medicine:

  1. Take as directed: What this means is taking the right dose the right way at the right time.² Understand what medicine you’re taking and if there are any special instructions while taking it. For example, do you need to avoid alcohol or certain foods while on the medicine? Or should you wait 4 hours until you take the next dose? These instructions are specific for a reason and it’s all to get you feeling your best.
  2. Know how you feel: It’s good to keep track of how you feel while taking medicine. This can help your doctor know if something needs to change with your prescription. Be mindful if you feel dizzy or nauseous or experience constipation.³
  3. Ask questions: It’s good to ask questions and talk openly about any other medicine or supplements you are taking. Talk to your pharmacist and care team if you have any questions about the purpose of the medicine or the special dosing instructions.

At CenterWell Pharmacy®, licensed pharmacists review your prescriptions for accuracy and safety. Getting you your medication is our job and we take pride in doing our job well. We’re here to assist with any questions you may have about your prescription needs.


  1. “Medication Errors to Watch for—6 High Risk Medications,” Ausmed Education, last accessed July 30, 2019, https://www.ausmed.com/cpd/articles/high-risk-medications.
  2. Nilay Macwan, “Management of High Risk Medication in Hospitals (Safety Management),” Share Your Essays, last accessed July 30, 2019, https://www.shareyouressays.com/knowledge/management-of-high-risk-medication-in-hospitals-safety-management/112400.
  3. “High Risk Medications,” Geri-EM, last accessed July 30, 2019, https://geri-em.com/medication-management/high-risk-medications/.

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