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New Ulm Medical Center

When taking medications, stick to the schedule

We all know how important it is to follow the doctor’s prescription to help us feel our best. And when you’re just taking one type of medication, that’s usually pretty easy to do.

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Sarah Leslie, PharmD

If you’re taking multiple medications, however, that’s when things become tricky. Oftentimes, these drugs need to be taken in a certain order or in a certain way — and that makes it difficult for patients to keep track of everything.

The Importance of Following a Schedule

At the New Ulm Medical Center, pharmacist Sarah Leslie is well aware of this issue. That’s why, she said, it’s so important that patients on multiple medications work out a schedule with their primary care provider— and then stick to that schedule as closely as possible.

“A schedule helps maintain consistency in your routine, which can help to avoid forgetting medication doses,” said Leslie. “Some medications work better when taken at a certain time of day; some work better on an empty stomach; some work better with food or have fewer side effects when taken with food. Finally, some medications have side effects that can be minimized by taking them at a specific time of day, such as taking those that cause drowsiness in the evening.”

This is especially important, as some of the complications can be quite serious if patients stray from this schedule, said Leslie. “Medications can interact with each other in ways that can make one, or both, of the drugs less effective,” she said. “Sometimes drugs taken together can increase the risk of side effects.”

How New Ulm Medical Center Can Help

Assistance with this issue is available at the New Ulm Medical Center. “One important service that we offer at New Ulm Medical Center is Medication Therapy Management,” said Leslie. “This is an office visit where you can spend time with a pharmacist one on one to discuss your medication regimen, develop a schedule and ask questions about your medications. You can ask your provider at New Ulm Medical Center if this would be appropriate for you.”

At these visits, Leslie said that you and the pharmacist will go over your schedule, and come up with a written schedule that you can keep at your home. “A written schedule that you update regularly is helpful not only for you, but also to bring to your doctor’s appointments to make sure your medication history is accurate,” she said.

Other Important Tips and Tricks

Some other items can help you stay on track with your medications, as well. “I’m a big advocate of using medication reminder boxes,” she said. “You can buy these at any pharmacy; some pharmacies even give them away for free. I recommend buying a box that has a separate slot for each dose to avoid confusion.”

Other strategies that Leslie recommends for patients are setting alarms on their cell phones or with other devices around the home to remind them to take their medication. For the more tech-savvy individuals, there are also a variety of other medication reminder services that can help. These include email reminders, text message reminders that are sent to your phone, or even “smart” pill boxes that talk or sound an alarm when it’s time to take your next medication.

Source: Health Edition, September 2011
Reviewed by: Sarah Leslie, PharmD
First Published: 09/09/2011
Last Reviewed: 09/09/2011