Prescription drugs are chemically formulated to have a particular effect in the body. Some examples of bodily effects are lowering blood pressure, reducing inflammation, or increasing blood flow. Prescription drugs have become important tools in the management of conditions and diseases, but do you know how to store your drugs? Or which medications shouldn’t be taken together? The management of prescription drug use can be confusing and tricky, so we outlined some tips that may be useful.
Did you know that you can compromise the ability of your meds to do what they are supposed to do if you store them incorrectly? Exposure to heat can alter the chemical composition of your prescription drugs making them less effective at treating you. Most medications can be stored at room temperature (20 to 25°C, 68 to 77°F) although others need to be stored in the refrigerator. So move your meds out of the washroom cabinet, because bathrooms can get very humid and very hot, and find out exactly how you should be storing them.
Keep in mind that prolonged storage in a hot car on your way home from the pharmacy can also compromise your meds. It is important to ensure your drugs are stored in a place where the temperature does not fluctuate a lot (e.g. near doors and windows that are frequently opened to the outside environment), or in rooms that do not have A/C in the summer. In the event of a power outage, be aware that meds in the fridge or in rooms that usually have A/C may be affected.
Be wary of drug interactions – talk to experts!
Medications often have more than one effect in the body. For example, Advil causes decreases in both pain and inflammation but also acts as a blood thinner to slow down clot formation. This is important to consider since some medications shouldn’t be taken at the same time because a) you may be cancelling out the effect of one medication (e.g. taking antibiotics while on oral birth control can make some contraceptives ineffective) or b) one treatment may increase the activity of another resulting in harmful effects.
Beyond interactions between two different medications, prescription drugs can also interact with alcohol and chemicals found in cigarettes and certain foods and herbal supplements. Since it is nearly impossible for the average patient to know all potential drug interactions and contraindications (i.e. when something should not be used) we highly recommend you have open lines of communication with your pharmacist and physician. This is especially important if you visit more than one pharmacy or clinic since the person in charge of your care may have an incomplete picture of your health. Healthcare professionals are experts in prescription drugs but they can’t help you if you don’t tell them what medications you are taking, whether you smoke or consume alcohol, or are taking any supplements. By informing both your pharmacist and physician, you are just providing yourself a safety check in case one healthcare professional happens to miss something.
Get your family involved
Once you’ve informed healthcare professionals about your medication use, take a moment to inform your family members. We recommend that you make lists of the dose and frequency of use for each drug you are taking and post a copy on the fridge. Provide other copies to your family members to keep in their purses or wallets, and keep a copy with yourself. This way if there is ever an emergency situation, the information will be readily available should you be unable to provide it. Furthermore, having your family involved in your health care will decrease the chance you forget to take your meds because someone else can remind you!