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The danger of sharing medicine


Many people assume that medicnies have same functions and actions on all individuals. However, this is not always true, since ones inner biological systems may differ from others. Therefore, the actions of the medicines may lead to side effects and cause harm in others.

Patient are always advised to identify the name of their medicines, exact dosage that being prescribed by the doctor, frequency of the medicines and their indications. These  must be practised to ensure the effectiveness of the treatment and to avoid any unwanted effect from the medicine .

There are people believed that sharing medicines are acceptable. Sharing medicines is defined as lending or giving prescriptions or non-prescriptions medicines to others.

This practices are to be stopped by any patients as they are responsible for their own medicines. If other  patients are having shortage of medicine supply, they should get it from the pharmacy.

Danger of Sharing Medicine

The need of medicine may  differs from one to another. Medicine given by the doctor are specifically for that patient and are based on their current conditions. The medicines are prescribed base on the age, weight, allergy history, current severity of the disease and probability of drug  interaction may occur while taking with any other medicines. Therefore, the best medicine for one  may cause harm to others

Patients may have their own reasons for sharing their medicines with others. For example, an old man with hypertension is taking his antihypertensive medication as directed by the doctor. However, his condition is still unstable even though his dosage has reached maximum dose and he was also  givenother antihypertensive medicines. After having a long discussion with the doctor, he claimed that he shared his medication with his wife who is also  has the same disease. He  purposely stops taking his medication several days before his scheduled appointment so that his blood pressure will increase. He hopes that the doctor will increase the dose or add other type of antihypertensive medicine. By doing so, he can share his current medicine together with his wife. His practice is dangerous as it may increase the risk of stroke and heart attack even though he has his own reason.

A medicines may works well on  patient  A but it does not necessary give the same effect on individuals B or C. Medicines should not be given to others even though your medicines going to expire, there are excess medicines with you or the medicines are not effective in treating your disease..

In other condition, it is more dangerous if a persons share medicines without seeking doctors advise to ascertain the correct diagnosis, whether there is a need for medicines , correct dosage and possibility of medicines interactions. Even though the symptoms of a disease may look similar but the actual disease not be the same. In this situation treatment has been delayed and complication due to late treament may occur.

Types of Medicines

Before consuming any medicines, it is important for  patients to know the type of medicine taken to avoid any negative consequences

There are two categories of medicines which are non-prescription medicine and prescription medicine .

  1. Non-Prescription Medicine

It is a  medicine  that can be obtained without prescription such as medicine  for fever which is paracetamol. It is not advisable to share with others especially children, but it can be shared if one knows the exact dose to give to another patient. But, this does not mean that all non-prescription medicines are safe for others.

  1. Prescription Medicine

For prescription medicine such as antibiotics and chronic disease, it cannot be shared even though one has the same disease or symptoms with others. This is because, the medicine  that patient should receive may be differ from one to another. Doctor will prescribe the patient with the appropriate medicine  based on their condition.

Treatment is varied for some patients. It depends on the patient’s medical history and other investigations such as laboratory results.

In addition to that , some medicines  are not advisable to be used with certain health condition of the patients in which it may cause harm to the patients. For example some diabetics medications are contraindicated   with patients who has kidney problem.

Antibiotics are a group of medicines that has tendencies to be shared with others. Although the symptoms may looks similar but the bacteria that cause the symptom may be different. Therefore, sharing antibiotics may not cure the diseases and it can  contribute to antibiotics resistance.

There are many medicines of same active ingredients  have different strength available in the market.

For example,  Tablet Amlodipine has two strength, 5mg and 10mg, Tablet  Enalapril 5mg, 10mg and 20mg and Tablet Warfarin 1mg, 2mg, 3mg and 5mg. Some of these medicines, their packaging  may look alike  although their strength are different. In this situation sharing medicines may cause harm if they are not aware of the differences in strength.

Besides that, some medicines may have more than one indications and their usage are only for certain group of age. For example, Tablet Aspirin are being used as a blood thinner are also used to reduce pain. This tablet is not allowed for use if patients age less than 16 years old because of risk of Reye’s Syndrome. Other than age factors, some medicines are not allowed to be taken by pregnant as it may cause fetal abnormality. Thus, it is dangerous to share medicines without doctors advice.


Many programs have been carried out to create awareness and to  increase comsumers knowledge on the correct and quality use of medicines which includes education on the risk of sharing medicines. The Know Your Madicines Campaign conducted continuously at government hospitals and clinics aims to encourage consumers to be more responsible when using their medicines.

It is important for patients to read  the label of their medicines to ensure they are taking the correct  medicines and medicines are not to be shared with others.  They are also advice to know the name of the medicines, the dosage, the frequency of taking medicines and  how to keep medicnes safely.

Traditional medicines may have some interaction with other medicines and their use  may also contraindicated with some disease conditions. Do not share with others as it may cause harm and it is advisable to seek healthcare professional advice if in need.


Sharing medicines with others is not advisable even though the individuals may have same symptoms and diseases. It may be safe for us but may not be appropriate to others as there are many factors to be considered before treatment started. Sharing medicines may cause harm to both as you may not getting the optimum treatment and the others are not treated correctly. Always follow treatment recomended by the healthcare provider and seek treatment from doctors if you have health issues.

Last Reviewed : 13 November 2017
Writer/Translator : Nurul Nasrah bt. Mohd Ariffin
Accreditor : Munira bt. Muhammad