Tips for Managing Multiple Medications

September 8, 2016
Amy Thompson

You may need several different medications for cancer treatment or its side effects. To get the most benefit from those medications, it is important to take each one exactly as your doctor prescribes. It may seem like an overwhelming task, but a little information, organization, and help from your doctor can keep you on your medication schedule and away from drug interactions. share on twitter   

Avoid Common Mistakes

With each new prescription, remember to:  

  • Carefully follow all of your doctor’s instructions.

  • Talk with your doctor about medication cost concerns that might lead you to reduce or skip a dose, and ask about local and national resources for financial help.

  • Finish all of the medication, even if you start to feel better.

  • Keep taking the medication, even if you don’t notice an improvement in your symptoms right away.

  • Contact your health care team if you start to feel worse while taking a medication or notice new symptoms.

Stay on Schedule

Your doctor prescribed you medications meant to treat your condition in a specific way. You need to stay on the prescribed schedule if you want them to be as effective as possible. That’s easier to do if you:

  • Read the entire medication label on the container to make sure you take the right dose.

  • Take your pills at the same time every day, such as first thing in the morning or with lunch.

  • Use a chart, pill calendar, or your phone’s calendar reminders to set a schedule and track when you take your medication.

  • Use a weekly pill case so you know whether you've taken each day's medication.

  • Ask family members or friends to remind you.

  • Ask your doctor what to do if you miss or skip a dose.

Avoid Drug Interactions

Drug interactions happen when 1 medication reacts with another medication or supplement you take. A medication can also react with something you ate or drank or another medical condition. This interaction can cause unexpected side effects or reduce or increase the medication’s strength. To stay safe, follow these steps:

  • Give your health care team a complete list of all the medications you take. That includes all prescription medications, over-the-counter (non-prescription) drugs, and dietary supplements, such as vitamins or herbal supplements. Also note if you’re allergic to any medications.

  • Keep the information about the medication that comes with your prescription. This paper describes the drug, its possible side effects, and any potential drug interactions. Before you start a new medication, go over this information with a member of your health care team.

  • Fill all of your prescriptions at the same pharmacy. That way your pharmacist can keep a complete list of the medications you take and alert you to possible drug interactions. 

  • Ask your pharmacist to use easy-to-read, color-coded labels to make taking your medication easier.

Ask Your Doctor

Once you and your doctor decide on a treatment plan, ask these important questions about each prescribed medication:

  • What’s the medication’s goal?

  • Is there a certain time of day I should take the medication?

  • Do I need to take this medication with food?

  • Are there any foods, drinks, or other drugs that can change the strength or effectiveness of this medication?

  • How long will I need to take this medication?

  • Why is it important for me to follow a schedule while taking this medication?

  • What should I do if I miss a dose?

  • What are the common side effects of this medication?

  • Can I crush my pills?

  • What follow-up tests will I need to monitor the medication's effectiveness?

  • What should I do if I experience an unexpected side effect to the medication?