The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up Your Medications
Part I: It begins with creating a medication list
Do your medications spark joy? For most of us, it is a definite no. A local study in 2012 involving 240 polyclinic patients found that 70% of these patients reported non-adherence to their chronic medications at some point in time. This figure is higher than the rates (ranging from 30-60%) reported by the World Health Organisation for developed countries.
Medication non-adherence is a growing problem due to the increasing number of patients with chronic diseases requiring chronic medications. Medications do not work if they are not administered. Patients who are not adherent to their chronic medications may not receive the full benefit from their treatment and may even be detrimental to their health. It has been found that poor medication knowledge often results in poor medication adherence. With more medications, it can be more difficult to remember important information about them.
The Benefits of a Medication List
A medication list is a useful way to keep all the information about your medications together. Firstly, it empowers you to be in charge of your medications and serves as a reminder to how and when to take your medications. Secondly, a medication list will also ensure that everyone involved in your health care (e.g. caregivers, GPs, hospital doctors and pharmacists) knows which medications you use. A medication list will also help your doctor and pharmacist check and review your medications to prevent side effects and interactions and to ensure that the most optimal medication therapy has been prescribed for you. Lastly, in an emergency, a medication list will also provide vital information about your medications readily.
Creating a Medication List
It must be accurate, honest and complete – even if it means admitting to not fully adhering to all the medications in the list. It is common for patients to hide their non-adherence to medications from their doctors and pharmacists or some may even practice “white coat adherence” by taking medications as prescribed only for the week before their doctor’s appointment for fear of the disapproving judgment from their doctors or pharmacists. However, this can be dangerous as doctors may perceive that your health condition is still not in control and continue to increase the dosage of your medications. Always be reminded that your doctors and pharmacists are committed to improving your health.
By creating an accurate, honest and complete medication list, your doctors and pharmacists are in a better position to clarify any doubts and fears you may have about certain side effects or adverse experiences you may have been having with your medications. They will also be able to advise and find alternatives to simplify your medication regime or to tailor one that better suits your needs and lifestyle.
Your medication list should include:
All the medications you use: prescription, non-prescription, over-the-counter, vitamins, herbal, natural and traditional medicines (e.g. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Jamu, Ayurvedic)
What each medicine is for
The dosage form of each medication
Oral (e.g. tablets, capsules, liquid and syrup)
Injected (e.g. injections)
Inhaled (e.g. inhalers)
Topical (e.g. sprays, sublingual tablets (dissolved under the tongue), transdermal patches, creams and ointments)
Inserted (e.g. eye drops, nose drops, pessaries and suppositories)
How much of each medicine to use (strength, dose and dosage)
When and how to use each medicine
Any known medication allergies
*Always indicate if you are not taking your medications as prescribed
Here’s two medication list templates that you can download for free. The first is a more detailed A4 size list that you could display at home and bring it along with you for every doctor’s visit, the second is a wallet sized summary list for emergency usage.
The medication in these templates are for reference only and clearly marked as examples.
It is important that your medication list is frequently updated with changes to your medications. Always consult your doctor or your pharmacist if you have any questions about your medications. You should always know what you are taking and why you are taking them.
Always keep your medication list at home and have another copy to take away whenever you visit a doctor or a pharmacist. Knowing as much as you can about your medicines will help you to maximize the benefits of your medications and to minimize potential medication side effects and interactions.
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” – your medications may not spark joy, but the journey to good health begins with knowing and understanding your medications. May the first step of creating your own medication list spark joy to better health.
About the Author: This article is written by Vanessa Ong. Vanessa is a registered pharmacist with the Singapore Pharmacy Council. She spent several years in the inpatient setting in a local hospital. She enjoyed her time spent in the wards working with a dedicated healthcare team passionate about better patient outcomes. She strongly believes that evidence-based health information can be made simple so that the public can find joy in taking ownership of their health and live life to the fullest.
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