DO you sometimes forget to take your medicine? Have you ever cut back or stopped taking your medicine without telling your doctor because you felt worse when you took it or felt like your symptoms were under control? If so, read on, because this article gives you some hints about overcoming these problems. Continuing on a medication especially for a long period of time takes a lot of work. Adherence to (or compliance with) a medication regimen is generally defined as the extent to which patients take medications as prescribed by their health care providers. Being non-adherent or noncompliant with medications is one of the biggest issues in health care today. The World Health Organization reports that in developed countries adherence to long term drug therapies in the general population is around 50 per cent and much lower in developing countries.
This contributes to substantial worsening of disease, death, and increased health care costs. Leading reasons for medication non-adherence are forgetfulness, disbelief that the drug is necessary or is helping, fear of side effects, experiencing actual side effects, cost of the drug and feeling that symptoms had disappeared so drug is no longer necessary.
Many people think that if they don't feel any symptoms or don't see any noticeable results, why continue taking their medicines. This is particularly the case with conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and diabetes which often cause no symptoms. Yet, in the long term, the effects of not taking medications for these conditions can be serious.
Here are some useful hints on how to remember to take your medicines.
* Link with daily activities
If remembering to take your medications is a problem, try to link with normal, recurring daily activities like eating breakfast, brushing your teeth, or going to bed. Take care however when linking medications as some can't be taken together and some have to be taken on an empty stomach or after food. Talking to your pharmacist or doctor can help whether or not any of these issues apply with your medications.
nMake medicines visible
Keep your medicines where you'll see them when you need to take them e.g. if you've linked them to eating breakfast, put them in a cupboard with the cereal or tea and coffee. However, don't forget to keep them out of the sight and reach of children.
* Use reminders
Reminders can be as simple as a note on the bathroom mirror, fridge or television or a reminder note that appears every time you start up your computer. Check if your watch, clock or mobile phone has an alarm and try setting it up so it sounds when it's time to take your medicines.
* Use a medication organiser
Storing your medicines in a pill box with labelled compartments for each day of the week will help ensure that you take the right medicine at the right time. Pharmacists sell a variety of medication organizers, so check out your pharmacy for the one that best meets your needs. Examples are given below.
A is a one-day organiser while B is a one-week organiser. Both have separate compartments for the day's breakfast, lunch, dinner and bedtime doses.
C is a one-week organiser that has one compartment for each day of the week, most useful if you take one or two medicines, or you take your medicines once a day.
* Ask questions — your doctor and pharmacist can help
Always ask your doctor or pharmacist for clear, precise explanations and instructions regarding medications. If you don't understand any part of what they're saying, ask for more clarification. Questions to ask about medicines can be how will this medicine help my condition, how will I know the medicine is working, when should I take the medicine, what should I do if I miss a dose, how long do I need to take the medicine for, possible side effects of the medicine, what should I do if I experience a side effect, how to store your medications appropriately. It can be difficult remembering to take several medications at different times of the day. Talk to your doctor and pharmacist about the possibility of streamlining your medicine timetable so it's easier to remember to take your medicines.
Shaneel Kumar is a lecturer in pharmacy at the Fiji School of Medicine. Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily that of The Fiji Times. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.