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Managing Multiple Medications

Your records indicate that you’ve been prescribed more than one kind of medication. When used correctly, these medications play a key role in helping to control and improve your health. This sheet explains why it is important to take your medications, and how you can safely manage multiple medications.

Why Medication Management Is Important to Your Health

When taken as directed, medications can greatly improve your health. But when medications aren’t taken as instructed, they can cause serious harm. Taking more than one medication without the approval of your healthcare provider can be dangerous to your health. Talk with your healthcare provider about every medication or supplement that you are taking.

Reviewing Your Medications

If you take more than one kind of medication, you are at risk of harmful drug interactions. The best way to protect yourself is to review all of the medications that you take. To do this, schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider or pharmacist to discuss all your medications. This includes prescribed and over-the-counter medications, as well as any vitamins and herbal remedies that you take. When you go in for your visit have one of the following:

  • A bag filled with your bottles of medications with the labels.

  • A list of all the medications that you take and the dosages prescribed.

Your healthcare provider or pharmacist will review your medications with you and decide whether you are at risk of any harmful drug interactions. Your healthcare provider may even adjust some prescriptions depending on what you take.

Remembering to Take Medications

  • Develop a routine. For example, take your medication at the same time each day, such as at breakfast or after you brush your teeth. This way, you won’t forget to take it.

  • Use a programmable watch to remind you when to take your medication.

  • Schedule reminders on your computer, PDA, or cell phone. Or, consider using a telephone service to remind you when to take your medication.

  • If you take many medications, use a pill organizer that lists the days of the week and when to take each pill (morning, noon, and evening). Have the bottles with labels in front of you as you fill the pillbox to avoid confusing pills that look alike.

  • Make a schedule for all the medications you take. Keep copies of the medication schedule in your wallet or purse, and medicine cabinet. The schedule should include the following:

    • Names of your prescription and over-the-counter drugs

    • Name of the healthcare provider and which medication he or she prescribed

    • The dose (strength) and when you should take it

    • Any special instructions, such as whether to take it with food or liquid.

  • If you miss a dose, follow the medication’s instructions for missed doses given to you by the pharmacist.

  • Don’t forget to take your medication when you are away from home. If traveling, make sure you have enough medication to last for your entire trip. When traveling by air, keep your medications with you, not packed in your luggage. Carry your prescription labels with you (either the original packaging or a photocopy). For more information about traveling with your medications, visit the Transportation Security Administration website: www.tsa.gov.

Safety Tips

  • Get help organizing your pills if you need it. Taking more than one medication can be confusing. A family member or friend can help prevent you from making a mistake that could be dangerous to your health.

  • Give a copy of your medication schedule to a family member or close friend. Hold copies of each other’s lists in case of an emergency.

  • Fill all your prescriptions at the same pharmacy. This way, your records are all in one place.

  • Make sure to refill your prescription while you still have a little medication left, so you don’t run out. Ask your healthcare provider to write an “extra” prescription in case of an emergency. If you use mail order, be sure to place your order with enough time for the medication to arrive while you still have some left.

  • Be sure refills are correct before taking medications.

  • Hold on to the instructions that come with your medications.

  • Don’t take a lower dose than prescribed to save money. Talk to your healthcare provider if you’re having trouble paying for your medications.

  • Never share medications with anyone.

  • Store medications in a cool, dry, dark place—not in a steamy bathroom.

  • Ask your pharmacist how you should dispose of old or expired medications.

  • Call your healthcare provider or pharmacist any time you have questions about taking your medications.

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