Papercut and colored pencil art by Sheryl Aronson X 5

Friday, April 13, 2012

Medication Coordination

I have just been started on three new medications, two of which replace other medications I had been taking, and the third one is for a new issue.  I have also recently started on a new dosage of another medication. That makes nine prescribed medications, along with fish oil, and a variety of vitamins and minerals.  I have several recommendations to share regarding the coordination of medications for others like me who are helping to keep so many people employed in the pharmacy industry.
First of all, when a doctor suggests a new medication, ask these questions:  what is it for; what is the dosage and when should I take it, and with or without food; how long until the med starts working; possible side effects, and what to do if they occur. Also find out if the medication is for a specific period of time, such as an antibiotic, or something you may need to take long term, such as blood pressure medication.  Have your doctor check to make sure there are no contraindications for any malady you may have, and that there will be no adverse interactions with your other meds.
Don't start more than one new medication at a time.  If you do, it will be difficult to keep track of which med is having what effect, and if there are side effects, you won't know which one is causing them.  When I started these four medications, I did them about 1 week apart. For most meds, that is enough time to tell how it affects you.  Ask your doctor if you should wait longer between starting new medications.
These medications were given to me by three different doctors- my primary care physician (PCP), my gynecologist, and my urologist.  I had each one check that there were no adverse interactions with the other meds I take.  Once I am established on a new medication, I always reorder it through my PCP.  That way, there is one central place that I go to for all my meds, I don't have to try to remember who I need to call, which pharmacy, etc.
Speaking of pharmacies, I have some thoughts there, as well.  Our medical insurance requires that we get our meds from their mail order pharmacy, 90 days supply at a time.  Many pharmacies and chain stores have their own list of inexpensive meds, such as Walmart, which sells many generic meds for $4 for a 30 day supply, or $10 for a 90 day supply.  This is less expensive than our mail order pharmacy, so two of my meds I get at Walmart, and skip the insurance.
Always keep a list of your medications, including dosages and times per day in your purse or wallet.  That way, you will always have it handy when going to a doctor, or if you need to go to the emergency room.  Include on the list a section of any meds you are allergic to, and what reaction it causes.
When you start a new med, remember that some meds need to build up in your system before you will get any effect, so be patient.  Other kinds of meds will kick in right away, with sharper effects and side effects, which will calm down after a few days or a week.   One of my new meds caused terrible dry mouth and nose initially, which has calmed down over the week I have been taking it.  If you don't think a medication is working, or if it continues to have side effects you can't live with, talk to your doctor.  Don't try to adjust it or stop taking it on your own.  If you do, you may get yourself in trouble by ending up with an unintentional overdose, or ineffective underdose.  

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