Archive for the ‘side effects’ Category

Taking Your Medication May Just Save Your Life-tips to stay on your medication and stay healthy

August 3, 2015

Nearly two-thirds of all patients don’t take their medication as the doctor prescribed and a similar percentage don’t refill their prescriptions in a timely fashion. This problem with medication is linked to more than a third of medicine-related hospitalizations and nearly 125,000 deaths each year
Tried-and-true methods, plus the latest electronic reminders and gadgets.
Taking medications as your doctor prescribes—known as medication compliance—is a key to staying healthy and managing chronic symptoms. But noncompliance is a serious public health problem.

Why it happens
There are a number of reasons why people find it hard to stay on medication regimens prescribed by their doctors. Cost is one of the biggest. People are prescribed a brand-name drug that they can’t afford, but a more affordable generic may be just as effective. Other reasons for noncomplince include medication side effects that people don’t like, or a lack of understanding about why a medication is necessary for good health. Forgetfulness especially in the elderly is also a common problem that can sabotage a medication routine.
Tips and strategies
When your doctor hands you a prescription, make sure you understand what it’s for, what the name of the drug is, how much you need to take and when, and what will happen to you if you don’t take it. Write down the information, ask for a printout, or bring a buddy or a partner to act as your scribe or advocate.
If a drug cost is too high for you, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about more affordable options, such as generic drugs. A number of large chain stores (Walmart, Target, Kroger) offer 30- and 90-day supplies of dozens of generic drugs for as low as $4 and $10. If you must stick to a brand-name drug, shop around for prices, and see if you qualify for prescription assistance programs through the drug’s manufacturer. One useful website is, which offers the opportunity to comparison shop for drug prices, as well as links to coupons.
If forgetfulness or a busy lifestyle keeps you from sticking to a medication routine, you may need to develop a strategy to stay on schedule. Suggestions include asking for reminders from family; using a seven-day pillbox; setting an alarm on your watch, phone, or clock; making a chart that shows when to take your medicine; keeping track of when you take medications in a journal; and taking a dose at the same time each day—perhaps even linking it to another daily activity, like brushing your teeth. It may also help to ask your doctor if it’s possible to reduce the number of medications by eliminating any that aren’t absolutely necessary, or to see whether combination drugs, which include two or more active ingredients in one pill, are available for your condition.
Technology, too
Computers, smartphones, and other gadgets can help improve medication adherence. Consumers can choose from such devices as automatic pill dispensers that pop out the right pills at the right times; pillboxes with timers and alarms; electronic caps that fit on prescription vials and beep when it’s time to take a medication, then record when the cap was removed, indicating that a pill was taken; and applications for computers and smartphones that can organize pill information and remind you when to take them.
Pharmacies and even insurance companies are also using technology to improve medication adherence. Some offer programs to call and remind you to get a prescription refilled, or programs that estimate when you’ll finish a medication and automatically refill the prescription, then call to remind you. Pharmacies also offer bubble or blister packs that organize several different medications into morning, afternoon, and evening packages, so you don’t have to open numerous pill bottles.
On the cutting edge is technology built right into packaging and even into pills themselves. Both can transmit signals about when you’ve taken your medications. “These aren’t widely available and are still being tested. But one day a lot of these systems could be able to integrate with your physician, all with the goal of improving adherence and health.

Bottom Line: It is important that patients take their prescription medication as directed by their physician. Noncompliance can significantly impact your health and well being. Use some of the strategies that I have outlined in this blog.

Don’t Let Your Medicines Make You Sick

February 2, 2014

Most middle aged Americans are taking 2-5 medications. These medications if not used properly, can add to your illness rather than improve your health. It is estimated that 1.5 million Americans are sickened, injured or killed each year as a result of errors in prescribing, dispensing and taking medications. Here are a few tips that you might consider regarding your medications that will lead to be better health.

Start by storing your medicines properly. Your bathroom is hot and humid and may cause your medications to deteriorate or loose their potency. It is best to store your medications in the kitchen or nightstand in the bedroom.

Inaccurate dosing. If the medications is a liquid and you are advised to take a teaspoon of medication and use a teaspoon from the kitchen drawer, the volume may vary from 2.5 ml to 7.3 ml. Therefore, it is advised that you use an accurate medication spoon which is available at every pharmacy.

Skip rope not doses. Take your medications as prescribed by your doctor and don’t skip doses or discontinue the medication as soon as your symptoms subside. This is particularly true for antibiotics and patients who have infections and stop their medications as soon as the symptoms are gone may find that they develop a worse infection because the bacteria develop resistance.

Storing your medications in one bottle is to be avoided. If you are like most Americans and have multiple medications, you can get confused if they are all in one container and take the wrong medication at the wrong time of day. I suggest that you keep the prescriptions in their original bottles with the labels placed on the bottles by the pharmacist.

Shop until you drop may happen if you are getting your medications from multiple sources. Instead of picking up medications at the neighborhood pharmacy and then filling another prescription at a pharmacy near work, may result in receiving medications that may interact and not have the desired effect or have the potential for side effects, I suggest that you obtain your medications from a single pharmacist who will have a log of your medications and will caution you about conflicting medications.

Final suggestion: Keep a record of your medical encounters and carry them in a folder to each doctor you see. This avoids duplicating tests, having drugs prescribed that cause an allergic reaction or a medication interaction. Also, carry this folder with you when you travel in case you need to see a doctor out of town or go to an emergency room that doesn’t have access to your medical records.

Bottom Line: Medications do make us better if used properly and taken as prescribed by our doctors. Be prudent about your medications and you will get well!

This blog was inspired and excerpted from an article, Avoid Common Medication Mistakes, by Jodi Helmer and appeared in June 2013 Costco Connection.

When Medicines Make You Sick

September 11, 2011

Most middle age and older men and women take more than one medication on a regular basis. Unfortunately these medications can interact with each other and produce undesired effects; sometimes the side effects are worse than the disease or condition that the original medication was intended to treat. It is estimated that 4.5 million Americans will return to the doctor’s office or even have to go to the emergency room because of the side effects of medication. There are an estimated 2 million serious drug reactions each year and drug reactions are the fourth leading cause of hospital deaths exceeding only by heart disease, cancer and stroke.

Side effects can produce symptoms ranging from lethargy, insomnia, muscle aches, depression, dizziness, diarrhea, constipation, and even chest paid.

So what can you do to avoid side effects of medications? First be sure your doctor knows what medications you are currently taking. Ask if the drug he is prescribing has any interactions with the drugs you are currently taking. There are computer programs that are available that will alert the doctor of any possible drug interactions. One of the most popular programs is e-Pocrates where the doctor or nurse can write in the drug being prescribed and the drug(s) the patient is currently taking and will list any potential drug interactions. Most electronic medical record programs that are becoming so prevalent among physicians’ practices will notify the doctor of any potential drug interactions.
Also, you can go to the Internet and use one of the search engines such as Google and type in the name of the medication and the phrase “drug interactions” and you will learn what drugs should not be taken together. There are drug interaction checkers available online. One of the best is

Next, ask the doctor what are the most common side effects and what is the likelihood of having any of the side effects. If the medical problem is not serious and not incapacitating, you may decide to forgo any new medications.

Also, ask your doctor if there are any lifestyle changes you can make as an alternative to taking medications. For example, if you have newly diagnosed high blood pressure, you can undergo a weight loss program and significantly reduce the salt in your diet, and you may avoid taking blood pressure lowering medications, which have side effects.

If you are taking multiple medications, you can ask your pharmacist to review all of your medications and the pharmacist will let you know which drugs are incompatible. Some pharmacists will charge you a few for this review but it is certainly worth it especially if you are older and if you take multiple medications. Also, if you are in a Medicare Advantage program, you may qualify for its medications therapy management services.

If you begin to experience a change or symptoms shortly after starting a new medication, you should contact the doctor’s office and speak to the doctor or nurse to find out if this is an expected side effect, how long it might last, or if the side effect is more serious and the drug should be discontinued.

It is also important to mention to your doctor any supplements, herbal medications, or vitamins that you routinely take as these may interact with your prescribed medications.

Final advice: Even if you are experiencing side effects due to medications, don’t stop taking the medication without calling your doctor first.

Bottom Line: For the most part drugs properly prescribed can be very helpful and will alleviate symptoms and treat your medical condition. However, all medications have side effects and you can minimize these side effects by being knowledgeable and informed about drugs and drug side effects.