Taking multiple medications means greater risk for side effects and interactions with other prescriptions.
“It’s common for people to have prescriptions from multiple health care providers to treat chronic conditions,” said Dr. Jaren Thomas, a Marshfield Clinic internal medicine physician.
Doctors balance the risks and benefits of prescribing new medications, but it’s important for patients to know about their medications and be their own health advocates.
Ask questions about new prescriptions
“Patients should play a big role in their health care,” Thomas said. “Ask questions each time you get a new prescription.”
Here is what you should know about every medication you take:
- Why do I need this?
- Are there non-pharmaceutical or over-the-counter options to treat my condition?
- How do I take the medication?
- How long will I need to take this?
- Can I do anything to get off this medication?
- What are common side effects?
- Are there drug interactions with medications I already take?
Review medications yearly
“Patients should go over their medications with their primary care doctor at least once a year,” Thomas said. “Ask if you still need the medications and if there are any new drug interactions you should know about.”
Bring a list of all your medications and their doses. Include over-the-counter medicines and supplements, which sometimes interact with prescription drugs. Consider bringing this list to all appointments if you get prescriptions from several providers.
Ask to review your medications sooner if you have side effects or common signs of drug interactions. Call your doctor if you have gastrointestinal problems, rash, fatigue or dizziness. Seek immediate medical help if you are having trouble breathing or can’t urinate even though you feel the urge.
Take medications as directed
Taking medications improperly can cause unpleasant side effects that may seem like drug interactions.
Take prescriptions according to your doctor’s instructions and over-the-counter drugs according to directions on the label. Pay attention to instructions like “as needed,” “until gone” and “with food.”
Ask your doctor if you’re not sure how to take your medications.
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