Taking Your Medications: Stay Smart, Stay Organized

July 2018

About 30 to 50 percent of those who take medicines at home do not use them as directed, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Women’s Health. This leads to more doctor visits, hospital stays, lost wages and changed prescriptions. All this costs Americans more than $100 billion each year.

As adults, we often take care of medicines for the whole family as well as ourselves. So we need to read the label, avoid problems, ask questions and keep good records.

  • Read the label. The label should show the list of ingredients. If you know you are allergic to anything in the medicine, don’t use it. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for a different medicine. Read all warnings carefully. Note the expiration date and don’t use a medicine after the date on the bottle. Ask your pharmacist about any questions you may have.
  • Avoid problems. Medicines can cause problems such as sleepiness, vomiting, bleeding, headaches or rashes. Ask in advance about any possible side effects from each medication you take. Don’t skip taking your medication without checking with your doctor. Do not share medications with others. Don’t take medications in the dark. Always make sure you can read the label clearly.
  • Organize your medicines. Keep an updated list of all medications you use, including prescription drugs, over-the- counter medications and supplements. Include on your list the date when it was last updated. You may want to create a spreadsheet listing the name of the medication, dosage, when to take it, what it’s for and the prescribing doctor’s name. Bring your medication list to every doctor appointment.
  • Ask questions. When a new medication is prescribed, ask your doctor: What is the medication’s name? Is there a generic version available? Why am I taking this medication? When should I take it? Should I take it on an empty stomach or with food? Is it safe to drink alcohol while taking this medication? If I forget to take it, what should I do? How much should I take? How long should I continue to take it? What problems or side effects should I watch for? NOTE: If you are pregnant or nursing a baby, seek the advice of your doctor before taking any medication or supplement.

Taking Your Medications as Directed

It is estimated that three out of four Americans do not take their medication as directed. Taking medication correctly may seem like a simple or personal matter, but non-adherence (or not taking medication as directed) is a complicated and common problem. People do not realize the real damage or consequences of non-adherence. When patients with chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease do not take medication as directed, the repercussions can be severe. For instance, not keeping blood pressure in check can lead to heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure.

In sum, poor medication adherence takes the lives of 125,000 Americans annually.

There are many reasons why people are not able to take their medication as directed.

  • They may forget.
  • They may not be convinced of the medication’s effectiveness or be unsure that it is working.
  • They may fear the side effects or have difficulty taking the medication (especially with injections or inhalers).
  • And we all know that the rising cost of prescription medications is a barrier for many.

Some may face a combination of these reasons for not taking their medications. One person may face different barriers at different times as he or she manages his or her condition. Whatever the reason, you could miss out on potential benefits, quality of life improvements, and could lose protection against future illness or serious health complications.

Taking your medication as directed gives you the best opportunity to manage your chronic condition and maintain the best possible health for yourself. One of the best ways to meet your goal is to talk with your doctor or pharmacist about the medications you are taking.

Your trusted health care professional can provide you with tips on how to manage your medications, including what to do if you miss a dose, if you can take them with other medications or vitamins, foods to avoid, and any possible side effects and interactions.

Establishing a strong relationship with your doctor or pharmacist can create an open environment where you feel comfortable asking questions and expressing concerns about a medication. Having a conversation with your doctor about how your medication impacts your chronic condition is crucial to managing your condition and taking back your health.

Remember, if you don’t take your medication as directed, you could be putting your present and future health at risk.

Source: American Heart Association

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