Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor
has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your
doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If
you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health, and
perhaps your life, at risk.
Taking your medicines as your doctor
says may include:
What time you take them, such as in the morning
or evening, or at 8 a.m. or 6 p.m.
How much you take, such as 2 tsp (10 mL) or 3 pills.
How you take them, such as with water, with food,
or on an empty stomach.
How long you take them, such as for 2
months or until your doctor says to stop.
Medicine and Long-Term Health Problems
You may be
taking medicine for a long-term (chronic) health problem. Some chronic diseases
can be controlled, but they usually cannot be cured. You may need to take one
or more medicines for the rest of your life.
Here are some examples of common chronic health problems and how
type 2 diabetes can help your body make more insulin
or decrease resistance to insulin. Some diabetes medicines slow how quickly
your body absorbs
carbohydrate. All of these medicines help you manage
high blood sugar. Managing your blood sugar can lower your risk of eye, heart,
blood vessel, nerve, and kidney disease.
osteoarthritis help with pain and allow you to be more
active. Being active can also reduce pain and make joints and muscles stronger.
Being active can help slow how fast osteoarthritis gets worse and may help
Taking a lot of pills increases your chances of having problems. If you take more than one medicine that works the same way, you could get too high a dose. And sometimes medicines work against each other. So make sure you know how to stay safe when you take several medicines.
People don't take medicines properly for many
reasons. If you're having problems taking your medicines as prescribed, it may
help to think about why you're having trouble. When your reasons are clear, you
can find ways to deal with the problems. This may make it easier to take your
medicines as your doctor wants you to.
Here are some common
concerns about taking medicines, along with some ideas for dealing with
"Medicines cause side effects that bother me."
"The medicine makes me feel worse."
"I think the medicine is making my health problem worse."
What you can do
If side effects bother you, talk to your doctor
pharmacist. Your doctor may be able to prescribe
another medicine or suggest ways to reduce side effects. For example, if an upset stomach is
a problem, ask if taking the medicine with food will help.
Ask your doctor or pharmacist about medicine interactions. One
medicine you are taking may change what another medicine does. This can cause
worse side effects or make a problem worse.
Ask your doctor if
there are medicines you should not take. This includes supplements and herbal
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist. Is there a
lower-cost medicine you can take? Can you use a generic medicine? Does your
health plan offer lower-priced options? He or she may have other ideas that
could save you money, such as buying in bulk or splitting pills.
Shop around. The cost of a medicine can vary from one drugstore to
another. You can also look into mail order and using the Internet.
Call social services or religious groups for possible help, or
get in touch with Medicaid, a government program that may be able to help you
with medicine and treatment.
Some drug companies offer help.
Search the Internet for the drug or company name and "patient assistance
program." If you're not sure about your medicine's name or who makes it, ask
your doctor or pharmacist.
Make sure you are taking medicines
that are covered by your health plan, if possible.
changes to improve your health. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables and less
fat and getting more exercise may help your health problem. This could mean
that you need less medicine. Less medicine means lower costs.
Don't use less of
your medicine, such as taking half a dose or using it every other day. It's
very important to take the medicine as your doctor tells you.
"I forget when and how to take all of these medicines."
"Sometimes I just forget to take my medicines."
What you can do
Ask your doctor which medicines you are taking
and why you are taking them, and then make a list. If you understand what you
are taking and how it is helping you, it may be easier to stay on schedule.
master list of medicines(What is a PDF document?), and keep it up to date. At every visit with your doctor,
review your master list of medicines.
Plan a daily schedule of
medicines. Be sure you understand how much of each medicine to take and when to
take each one. Put your schedule somewhere where you will always see it and
where it's easy to find. Take it along when you travel. Write down your daily
medicine schedule in a
form that has spaces for time entries(What is a PDF document?).
Use a pillbox. Get a pillbox
that holds a week's worth of pills. This may be especially helpful if you are
taking pills every other day.
Remind yourself. Post notes near
clocks or on the bathroom mirror to remind you to take your medicines. Use a
wristwatch with an alarm, and set it when you need to take your medicine. Take
the medicine when you do a daily task, such as brushing your teeth or making
Ask your doctor whether you can take a longer-acting
medicine instead of a shorter-acting one. This means you'll be able to take
fewer pills. This may make it easier for you to remember to take your
If you use several inhaler medicines, put a label on each one so that you know which one to use at the right time.
Talk with your doctor about what you should do if you
miss a dose of a medicine. Discuss what to do for each medicine—it may be
different for each one.
"I keep getting interrupted before I can take my medicine."
"My schedule keeps changing, so it's hard to remember to take my medicine."
What you can do
Ask the person interrupting you to wait while
you take your medicine.
Keep your medicine in your hand. You will
be more likely to take it later.
Will the schedule change affect
your medicine schedule? Be sure to make time to take your medicine.
Place a reminder someplace where you will see it, such as in your
car or on a house key.
"I run out of my medicine."
What you can do
Talk with your doctor or pharmacist about how
long your medicine will last. Then mark on a calendar when you need to get a
refill of your medicine.
Ask your doctor to prescribe a large supply of medicine
with many refills. For example, if you're taking a medicine long-term, ask for
a 3-month supply with a year's worth of refills.
Ask your pharmacist if there are ways the pharmacy can
remind you to refill your medicines so you don't run out.
"I feel good, so I don't take my medicine."
"I don't think my medicine is working."
What you can do
Remember that you feel good because you're
taking the medicine.
Remember that some health
conditions, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure, don't make you
feel sick. But medicine can lower your risk of serious problems, such as a heart attack and stroke.
Remember that some medicines
do not help right away—they take time.
Remember that your
medicines can help you prevent complications that could happen because of your
Talk to your doctor about your concerns.
"I need to use an inhaler, but it's too hard to use."
"I have to give myself a shot, and it's hard for me."
"It's hard for me to swallow pills."
What you can do
Ask your doctor or pharmacist to show you how
to use your
inhaler. Using a device called a spacer may make it
Ask your doctor about medicines that don't require an
Ask your doctor, pharmacist, or diabetes educator for
advice or tips on giving yourself shots.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.