The 10 Commandments of Medication Management

Une femme tient des bouteilles de médicaments dans sa main

Migraines, stomach aches, sprains, bronchitis... at some point, we’ve all taken medication to help resolve a temporary health issue. However, with age comes the risk of chronic illness and mental health problems, which means that some people must regularly take medication. For some, managing daily medication intake can be a daunting task, but hopefully these commandments will help.

1. Thou shalt make a list.

It may be hard to believe but there is still no online record that allows pharmacists and healthcare professionals to see all the medications you take. The main reason is that most pharmacies and clinics do not use shared systems. And even if they did, these systems are only used to keep track of prescription drugs.

So, for your own safety, make a complete and up-to-date list of everything you’re taking, like over-the-counter products, prescription drugs, homeopathic medicines and supplements.

2. Thou shalt use a pillbox.

Do you take several pills every day?

A weekly pillbox or pill organizer can be very handy when it comes to sorting your daily doses. Some models have compartments to remind you when (morning, noon and/or night) to take the medication. The more sophisticated ones will even have built-in alarms. The purpose of these features is to reduce the risk of forgetting.

They also makes it easier to keep track of the medication you take. Busy schedules and daily distractions are not always conducive to medication management. When in doubt, consult your pillbox.

Quelqu'un remplit un pilulier

3. Thou shalt keep the original bottles.

Even when using a pillbox, keep the remaining the pills in their original bottle because the label contains valuable information, like the name of the drug. When you take several different pills, it can be easy to confuse when and how many you’re supposed to take. The original bottles will tell you what the blue pill does, what the small white tablet does, and so on. They also tell you how many refills you have left before you need to renew your prescription. Forgot who gave you the prescription from? No problem! The name of the doctor also appears on the label.

4. Thou shalt have a routine.

To be fully effective, medication needs to be taken at the same time(s) every day for as long as you need it. Ideally, you should create a routine and stick to it.

Try combining the taking of your medication with a daily activity (e.g. at breakfast, after your morning shower, just before your favourite TV show).

Are you tech-savvy? Then schedule alerts in the calendar app on your tablet or smartphone. You could also download a medication management app.

5. Thou shalt respect the dosage.

For treatment to achieve the desired results, dosage instructions, indicated on the label, must be followed to the letter! Take the exact dose—no more, no less.

And always continue your treatment until the end, even if you feel better. Stopping before the end exposes you to unwanted effects and reactions (e.g. your condition could return). Plus, some types of medication, like antidepressants, require tapering, which means slowly reducing the dose before stopping altogether.

Une pharmacienne et une patiente

6. Thou shalt be loyal to thine pharmacy.

As much as possible, have all your prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy. With a complete file, pharmacists are better able to assess the potential effects of drug interactions. They can also better advise you.

7. Thou shalt read the label.

Before leaving the pharmacy, make sure the label bears your name and that it’s the right product. Someone else with the same name could have their file at that pharmacy too, which could cause confusion.

8. Thou shalt ask questions.

When you receive a diagnosis or a new prescription drug, obtain information from your healthcare professionals. Ask questions like:

  • What is the disease, what are its symptoms and how will it affect my life?
  • What is the official name of the prescription drug? What are its active ingredients?
  • What is the desired effect?
  • What are the potential side effects?
  • How will it interact with other drugs I take?
  • What are the contraindications, if any?

The more you know, the better you'll be at assessing your condition and reacting in the event of adverse reactions or discomfort. You'll also avoid making mistakes.

9. Thou shalt tell thine loved ones.

Talk to your loved ones about the types of medication you’re taking, especially your emergency contact. That way, if ever you’re unable to communicate, they can tell the medical team for you. The idea here is to prevent an overdose.

What's more, if you’re unexpectedly hospitalized, your loved ones will know which medications to pack with your personal belongings.

10. Thou shalt keep an organized medicine cabinet.

Are you the type to wait until your medicine cabinet door doesn’t close anymore to clean it out? You’re not alone! Many of us have a habit of not throwing out expired medication, ointments and tablets. Some are so old that they now likely cause what they’re supposed to cure.

Sound medication management starts with a well-organized medicine cabinet. Return all expired drugs to the pharmacy. Sort all other products by use. Make the medication you take regularly the easiest to access, followed by your first-aid items. As a rule, you should be able to find what you're looking for without having to dig for it. If this is not the case, then you haven’t cleaned it out enough. Remember to keep only what is necessary.

By obeying these commandments, you'll be able to manage your medication, cope with your illness on a daily basis and continue to enjoy life to the fullest. Have a long and healthy life! (This hyperlink will open in a new tab)

The Association québécoise des pharmaciens propriétaires created a website with tons of useful information. Consult it.