Many of us take daily medications to stay healthy—but half of those meds aren’t taken as prescribed, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “Poor medication adherence can interfere with the ability to treat many diseases, leading to greater complications and a lower quality of life,” the health authority reports. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that non-adherence causes 30 to 50 percent of chronic disease treatment failures and 125,000 deaths per year in this country,” they add.
Unfortunately, even those of us with the most organized routines and the best of intentions can occasionally forget to take our meds. When this happens, it’s not always clear how to ‘catch up’ without causing any additional problems. That’s why Best Life spoke with pharmacist Thomas So, PharmD, Senior Manager in the Consumer Drug Information Group at First Databank, Inc. to find out how to safely catch up when you miss a dose.
Read on for his expert advice, plus some crucial tips on how to avoid missing doses in the first place.
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Creating a consistent daily regimen for your medication can reduce your chances of accidentally missing a dose. The FDA recommends taking your medicine at the same time every day to avoid confusion, along with keeping a “medicine calendar” to help keep track of which drugs you’ve taken so far. “Tie taking your medications with a daily routine like brushing your teeth or getting ready for bed. Before choosing mealtime for your routine, check if your medication should be taken on a full or empty stomach,” the FDA further suggests.
If you take multiple medications each day, the health authority also suggests using a pill organizing container—ideally one that provides different sections for different times of day. Timer caps for pill bottles, which notify you to take your medication at a specific time of day, offer a similar benefit.
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So says that if you realize you’ve missed a dose—and it’s your only dose scheduled for the day—you can often safely correct the error by taking your meds as soon as you remember. “However, it may depend on how often you take your medication. If you take your medication multiple times a day and it is near the time of your next dose, it is best to skip the missed dose and just take your next dose at the usual time,” he notes.
The key, So says, is to always read all of the written information provided by the prescribing doctor or pharmacist. “Patients usually get a leaflet when they pick up their prescriptions. They should read the leaflet, which will usually provide information on what to do if a dose is missed,” he advises.
If that information isn’t provided on the drug’s label or pamphlet, So recommends reaching out to a medical professional for assistance. Be sure to provide them with a complete list of all of the medications you are currently taking, to inform them of any underlying conditions, and to mention any concerns you may have about current or possible side effects.
So warns that doubling up on your medication to “catch up” can come with serious side effects—even if you’ve missed the previous dose. That’s especially true for certain classes or types of medication. “For instance, some medications used to treat high blood pressure if doubled up could cause very low blood pressure, which can lead to falls. Doubling a dose of a medication to treat diabetes could result in hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. If your blood sugar stays too low for too long, it could result in seizures,” he tells Best Life.
The Poison Control Center agrees that “a double dose of some medications may not be a major problem, while doubling up on others can cause potentially serious outcomes.” Discuss this with your doctor when the medication is prescribed, and write it down for later reference.
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Another factor to consider is how your usual dosage time relates to other aspects of your day, he says.
“For some medications like amphetamines used to treat ADHD, if a dose is missed and it is taken late in the day, a patient may have trouble falling asleep. If a dose of a diuretic or ‘water pill’ is missed and taken too close to bedtime, that may cause you to wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom,” he explains. “Sedative hypnotics used to treat insomnia missed before bedtime and taken during the day may make you too drowsy or sleepy to function during the day.”
Speak with your doctor or pharmacist to learn more about whether your current medications could cause side effects if taken at an irregular time of day.
Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you’re taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.