Saturday, March 19, 2011

Medications Made Easier

An interesting study from Sweden indicates that how the body breaks down medicines is directly related to the sun and vitamin D levels present. Drug Metabolism & Disposition 3/11 While the analysis was done on people taking drugs, which are used to suppress the immune system in association with organ transplants, the bottom line is that sun exposure can have an impact on how the body absorbs a medication.

Prescriptions usually come with directions on when to take them-first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach, with a meal etc. While some medications aren’t all that impacted by when you take them, others are very sensitive to time of day. For example, many doctors tell their patients to take statins at night, even though some statins, such as Lipitor or Crestor are thought to last long enough that they can be taken at any time of day. People taking thyroid medication are told to take it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, a half hour to an hour before breakfast. However, a new study in the December issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, indicates that the medication is much more effective if taken at night.

Confusing, isn’t it? Below are some tips on how to make things a bit easier.

Tell your medical provider what type of herbs, supplements, other medications or over the counter drugs you are taking and when you take them. It’s helpful to keep a written list of these items. Be sure to include how much of each you take. For example, if you take vitamin D-3, you would write down, Vitamin D-3, 1,000 Ius taken once a day. Other things to let your provider know:
- If you have a special diet, such as being a vegan, drink alcohol, smoke or engage in certain types of activities, such as being a competitive runner, driving heavy equipment etc.
- If you have allergies
- If you have another condition, such as diabetes, liver disease, cancer

Learn more about the medications, herbs and supplements you are taking:
• Ask your doctor and pharmacist about the medications that are prescribed for you.
• Know what the recommended dose is and how it should be taken (whole pill, split at night, day time etc.). If your doctor is prescribing the drug differently for you, understand why. If you want to take the medication in a different (divide or crush the pill) talk to your pharmacist.
• Read Over the Counter medication labels carefully. Look for possible interactions with medications you are currently taking.
• Check out the following websites:
- Drugs, Supplements and Herbal Information from Medline Plus

- Rx List

Know the side effects
While your doctor should explain side effects, read the information that comes with your prescription. Talk to your pharmacist when you pick up your prescription.

Call your provider if side effects occur.
Sometimes you may have new symptoms, that haven’t been mentioned as side effects. This maybe a result of the medication, so contact your provider.

Keep track of what you are taking
Make a list of medications, supplements and over the counter products that you are taking. Be sure to include the dosage, generic name, when you started it, if you stopped it and why. Take this with you to medical appointments.

Take medications as prescribed for the length they are prescribed
Even if symptoms have disappeared, take medications as prescribed. If you need to stop a medication, contact your provider.

Store medications properly
• Do not store in the bathroom. Unless otherwise instructed, keep away from heat, light and moisture.
• Keep medications where it is easy for you to take them. For example, might medications can be stored in the drawer of your nightstand.

Use pill caddies and other helpful tools to keep you taking medication as prescribed
One of the single biggest reasons medications don’t work for people is they aren’t taking them as prescribed. There are wide arrays of tools that can help remind you to take medications. Talk to a pharmacist, medical provider, case manager, nurse or members of a support group about what tools are available, what’s worked for others in your situation, and what might be best for you. Check out Independent for comparison of pill dispensers. They also have a section on choosing a medication aid.

If you don’t think you can take medications as prescribed let your provider know.
If a treatment sounds like something you know you aren’t going to follow, be upfront about it and discuss other options.

If money is an issue
• Ask your provider if there is a generic or cheaper medication you can take.
• Ask for samples
• Go to the following websites where you can obtain free and/or lower cost medications:
- Prescription Assistance Program
- Free Medicine Program
- Needy Meds
- Together Rx Access
- Rx Assist
- Tricare Senior Pharmacy For uniformed services beneficiaries 65 years of age or older.

Keep medicine out of children’s reach

Check for expiration dates

Dispose of Medications Properly

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