If you are reading this, chances are you don’t take all your meds as prescribed.
Fewer than 25 percent of people with rheumatoid arthritis or lupus take their medications as prescribed more than 80 percent of the time, according to a study presented at the most recent American College of Rheumatology Annual Scientific Meeting. And additional studies show that compliance is worse if you’re depressed, if you don’t have someone to remind you to take your pills, or if you have a lot to take every day.
Rheumatologists offer these tips to make your daily pill routine easier to swallow.
Review your meds with your physician. Ask if you need everything you’re taking. Different doctors may have prescribed overlapping medications. Or you may find that a single combination pill can replace two separate drugs, or that you can take a lower dose.
“Patients often assume that I remember each and every one of their medicines. We simply can’t do that,” explains Robert Katz, MD, a rheumatologist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. “So it really is good to ask the question, ‘Are there any of these medicines that I could discontinue or cut down on?’”
Learn what each drug does. If it treats your disease, it’s probably crucial to take. If it’s treating another medication’s side effect, there might be an alternative. For example, opioid painkillers can lead to constipation, which is treated with laxatives, so ask if you can use a painkiller without this side effect.
Take fewer vitamins. If you’re taking several vitamins, ask your physician if a multivitamin could replace them. (In some cases, it can’t.) Also, find out if you can eliminate any supplements by eating more nutrients in foods – like salmon instead of fish oil pills.
Cut out unnecessary supplements.
“Did a physician recommend it or not? If you are self-medicating, you may not need it,” says David Pisetsky, MD, a professor of medicine and immunology at Duke University Medical Center, in Durham, N.C.
Lose weight and exercise.
You may find that the stronger and slimmer you get, the fewer pain relievers you need. You may be able to cut back on other meds too.
“Many people are looking for more natural solutions to feel better,” says Dr. Katz. “If you’re in good shape from exercise and you slim down, you might be able to reduce some medicines, like ones for high blood pressure and high cholesterol.”