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January 2024

Mastering Your Meds: How to Work with Your Provider

Medicines help with many health conditions. But as the years pass, the number of pills and capsules in your cabinet can add up.

More than one-fourth of people between 50 and 80 take 5 or more prescription meds, a new national poll finds. They’d like to cut back—about 80% would be willing to drop one or more medicines if their healthcare provider gave the OK.

If you’re reconsidering your meds, it’s a good idea to check in with your provider. Over time, some may no longer be needed. Some can even become harmful.

Don’t go it alone

The idea of stopping even one medicine comes with an important caution. In the same survey, one-fourth of people had stopped taking a medicine after more than a year on it. Of those, 36% did so without talking to a provider.

This is a risky move for several reasons. Stopping a medicine suddenly might make your health condition worse. In some cases, it can cause dangerous side effects.

The best solution? Talk with your provider. Don’t be nervous about bringing it up. Providers recognize it’s often better to take fewer meds and will work with you to streamline your regimen.

Start with the facts

Before or during your next appointment, make a list of all the medicines you take. Include your prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and supplements. Note what they’re for, how often and for how long you’ve used them, who prescribed them, and the dosage.

Request a review

Together with your provider, go over the list. Ask them to check for:

  • Meds that might interact with each other

  • Medicines that are no longer needed

  • Treatments that have more risks than benefits, especially for older adults

Ask how to safely wean off those that are no longer working for you.

Tell the whole truth

To make these decisions, your provider needs to know everything, including if you’re having side effects or trouble taking your medicine. Between appointments, pay attention to how you’re feeling. Note any new or worsening symptoms. Ask your provider if they could be linked to your prescriptions.

Don’t be embarrassed to mention other barriers. For instance, share if cost is an issue. They might prescribe a less-expensive medicine or recommend an assistance program.

Remember: Your provider wants what’s best for your health. As a team, you can make sure your medicines are doing what they’re supposed to—helping you achieve the best health outcomes possible.

Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2023
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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