As we age, it is common to be treated for more than one medical condition at a time, for example, diabetes, high blood pressure and arthritis. To manage these conditions, patients are often prescribed more than one medication to be taken each day. However, taking multiple medications can be challenging to work into your daily routine.
The following five strategies offer ways that you can work with your healthcare team to make it easier for you to manage your medication regimen, while providing the most benefit.
1. Combination medications
Combination diabetes drugs, which combine two glucose-lowering medications in a single pill or injection, have become a valuable way to simplify the daily medication regimen. This can help because the dosing schedules are usually simpler and require fewer tablets or injections each day. There are a limited number of medications with only certain strength combinations available, so talk to your healthcare team to see if this is a possibility with your current regimen.
2. Multi-action medications
Some newer medications that are used to lower blood sugar have also been found to have other actions, such as protecting against heart disease, or reducing the risk of kidney disease. If you are at risk of either of these conditions, your healthcare team may prescribe one of these types of medications, which have multiple benefits.
3. Medication synchronization
If you see a specialist in addition to your primary healthcare provider, you might find yourself with prescriptions from each healthcare provider. If those prescriptions were all written on different dates, then you may have to pick up each medication at a different time of the month based on the time that your insurance provider will allow you to fill them. This is where medication synchronization comes in handy. Medication synchronization is when the pharmacist coordinates the refill of your medications so that you can pick all of them up on a single day each month. This will mean fewer visits to the pharmacy, improved understanding of medication use and the assurance that your complete medication profile is being reviewed. Ultimately, it can simplify the logistics surrounding your medication regimen.
4. Decrease the number of tablets or injections taken daily
There are different strengths and forms of the same medication. By utilizing the available options, you may find easier ways to treat your diabetes. For example, metformin and metformin ER are the same drug, but metformin ER is the extended-release version. This means that it doesn’t have to be taken as often, which can simplify your daily regimen.
If you are taking an injectable non-insulin medication for your diabetes, ask your doctor or pharmacist if there is a once-daily or once-weekly option for you.
Also, if your dose has increased to taking two or more of the same tablet at the same time, you can ask your pharmacist to see if there might be a higher-dose tablet to minimize the number of pills taken each day.
5. Review your medications with a pharmacist
A promising strategy to simplify your treatment regimen is a multi-step process that begins with a medication review with your pharmacist or healthcare provider. They can help assess the benefits and risks of each medication and potentially ‘deprescribe’ any that are no longer appropriate. Deprescribing is the planned and supervised process of dose reduction or stopping a medication that might be causing harm or is no longer of benefit. Deprescribing is part of good prescribing – backing off when doses are too high or stopping medications that are no longer needed. A medication review can also be a good time to assess all of the other options mentioned above, as well.
Once this process is complete, your pharmacy will likely provide you with a list of all of your medications with dosages and frequency of use. You will find that this helps keep everything clear and organized. Make sure that you or your pharmacist update the list when changes are made.
Pharmacists can help simplify a complex medication regimen by answering your questions. They can also help you take advantage of systems designed to help automate prescription refills and can point you to time-saving tips and tricks to make using medications easie