Have you ever wanted to ask a question about your medicine? But maybe you thought it was a silly question, not worth bothering your doctor or pharmacist about? Below, our medical team has answered some of the most common questions people have about taking their medicine.
Q: I’m experiencing a symptom that I think may be caused by my medicine. Can I take less?
A: You should never change the amount of medicine you are taking unless you are instructed to do so by your doctor. Side effects, also known as adverse reactions, are unintended effects of a medicine. All medicines can have side effects. Sometimes they are serious, most of the time they are not. Some side effects might go away with time; some can be managed by reducing the dose or changing to another medicine; and sometimes, you can reduce the likelihood of some side effects. Importantly, don’t guess. If you do not feel well while you are taking a medicine, make sure you speak to your doctor or pharmacist for advice.
You can also read the Consumer Medicine Information (CMI) leaflet, which contains a lot of information about the medicine, including possible side effects. These are available on the Therapeutic Goods Administration website in Australia, or Medsafe in New Zealand.
Q: My prescription medicine is not making me feel better. Can I take more?
A: Never change how much medicine you take unless you are asked to do so by your doctor. Medicines do not always work the same for everyone, so tell your doctor if you are not feeling better.
Q: I ran out of prescription repeats. Can I stop taking my medicine?
A: Only your doctor can tell you if you no longer need to take a medicine. If you do need more medicine, your doctor may need to see you first to write you a new prescription. Importantly, some medicines should not be stopped abruptly. So make sure you schedule follow up appointments with your doctor before any of your medicines run out.
Q: I feel better. Do I still need to take my medicine?
A: You should not stop taking a prescription medicine before your doctor wants you to stop. You may not get well as soon as you could or you might not stay well if you stop your medicine too early.
Q: I don’t feel sick when I forget to take my medicine. Does this mean I don’t really need it?
A: Not necessarily. Many illnesses do not always have symptoms. Some examples are high blood pressure, early glaucoma, and high cholesterol. In fact, if you have one of these conditions, you might not have even known about it until your doctor told you. That means if you miss a dose of your medicine, you might not feel any different. Still, you do need the medicine your doctor prescribed.
If you do not take care of these conditions, you may have more health problems in the future. Untreated high blood pressure can damage your heart, eyes, and kidneys, for example. Or if you do not take medicine to control glaucoma, your eyesight may get worse. So always talk with your doctor before you stop taking your medicine.
Q: What should I do if I forget to take my medicine?
A: For each medicine you are prescribed, it is important that you talk to your doctor or pharmacist about what to do if you miss a dose. Make sure you know what to do if you forget to take your medicine.
Q: How long can I save medicine in case I need to take it again later?
You should never save medicine unless you have discussed it with your doctor. Even though you think you have the same illness as before, it may be different. This time, the old medicine might not be the best one for you. Only your doctor can decide which medicine you should take.
Q: My medication recently expired. Can I still take it?
A: No. Medicines have expiration dates on their labels for a reason. This is one of the reasons why you should always keep your medicine in the original packaging. Be sure to check the date and if it has passed, you should not take the medicine. In fact, you should take it to your pharmacy who can safely dispose of the expired medicine for you, usually free of charge.
Q: Can I store all my medicines in the bathroom cabinet?
A: No. For medicines that need to be stored below 30°C, it is important to keep them in a cool dry place. The heat and dampness in bathrooms can actually destroy some medicines. Some medicines need to be kept in the fridge. Storage information is available on the package label of your medicine. Alternatively, ask your pharmacist about how you should store your medicine.