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How can I manage multiple medications?

A new health diagnosis often means a new prescription from your doctor. In many cases, people who have one or more health conditions may need to take several different medications.

Managing your medications is an important part of your treatment. That means consistently taking the right dose at the right time, according to the instructions from your doctor. Ensuring you understand those instructions is the first step, says Natalie Crown, PharmD, pharmacy clinician educator at Women’s College Hospital. She advises getting some important information about any new medication before you leave the doctor’s office, such as what it’s for and how much to take.

When a doctor gives you a new prescription, key questions to ask are:

  • what is the medication used for?
  • when should I expect to see benefits from this medication?
  • what are the common side-effects?

Since many drugs are used to treat more than one condition, it’s important to let your pharmacist know why you’re taking the medication.

“The pharmacist will tailor your education around your reason for taking the medication,” says Crown. “When you go to the pharmacy and you give the prescription to the pharmacist, letting them know what the medication is used for is a really important piece of information.”

Make a list

You should always have a detailed, up-to-date list of all the medication you take. The list should include the name of each medication you take, why you take it, how much you take and how often.

Crown stresses the importance of including everything (absolutely everything!) you’re taking on your medication list. The list should include:

  • prescription medications
  • over-the-counter medications, such as pain relievers
  • inhalers
  • eye drops and ear drops, medication patches
  • vitamins and supplements
  • herbal products

Be sure to take the list with you to all healthcare appointments.

One factor that might help you track your prescription medications more easily is to have all of your prescriptions filled at the same place.

“Pick a pharmacy that’s convenient to you and use one pharmacy for all of your prescription medications,” Crown suggests. “That way there’s one place that has a full current list.”

Effective reminders

In order for your medication to provide the most benefit, you may need to take it at a certain time of day, or with food, or on an empty stomach. Your pharmacist can help you with those instructions. However, you’ll want to find a way to remember to take your medications that suits you.

If you take multiple medications, it can be helpful to take advantage of pharmacy packaging services. The pharmacy can arrange your medications in blister packs that group all your medications together in individual doses by day and time. You can also do this yourself using special containers sold at pharmacies.

There are many methods you can use to help you stick to your medication schedule. One effective approach is to make taking your medication part of a routine you do every day.

“Associate it with an activity or something in your day that’s consistent,” Crown suggests. “It might be getting up in the morning, or having breakfast, or getting ready for bed.”

Systems that may help you remember to take your medication include using reminders on your calendar, programming an alarm, or using an app on your smartphone.

“The important thing is to find a system that works for you,” Crown says.



This information is provided by Women’s College Hospital and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: April 2014

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