Once A Day! Twice A Day! Three Times A Day!

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We all know that when you go to the doctor’s office and you are given a prescription for medication, it is important that you take it correctly. So, how would you take your medication if the instructions on the label stated, “Take one tablet every 24 hours?” Some of you may say once a day and some of you may say every other day. That is why this is a great topic to cover.

I had a patient come into the pharmacy for a refill of her medication. As I was processing her blood pressure medication, I noticed that she was one month overdue on her refill. Of course I had to ask “Did you forget to take your medication a few times?” She replied “No. Why?” I told her, “Because it looks like you’re coming in about a month late for your refill.” She replied, “I take it every other day like it states on the prescription bottle”. I looked at the bottle and it said “Take 1 tablet every 24 hours”. I explained to her that every 24 hours means once a day. After our discussion, she was pleased that she was going to start taking her medication correctly.

Although I was not a fan of how the directions were typed on the prescription bottle, I counseled the patient on how she should take her medication correctly. When the patient received this new prescription, a consultation with the pharmacist would have helped her to take her medication correctly from the beginning.

So, if the doctor writes a prescription to be taken or used once a day, what time do you take it? Well, it all depends on the medication. Some medications need to be taken with or without food. Some medications have side effects that tell pharmacists how we should recommend that you take the medication. For instance, a water pill which eliminates the water from your body, would I recommend this to be taken at night before bedtime? Absolutely not! You need your sleep. We don’t want you getting up all night to run to the restroom! How about a pain pill that causes drowsiness? Would I recommend that you take it before you get on the road to work? Absolutely not! Your family, friends and I want you around a bit longer!

So when do you take a medication that needs to be taken/used twice a day? What does this mean? Generally speaking, this means every 12 hours. And when I counsel patients on taking medications 12 hours apart, I tell them to pick a time of day in the morning when they can take their first dose. And if they say 8 AM, I tell them that they will be taking this medication 8 AM, 8 PM, 8 AM, 8 PM, 8 AM, 8 PM as I am tilting my head side to side until I see that they’ve got it. *There are exceptions to taking your medication 12 hours apart. Some medications may keep you up at night such as nasal decongestant tablets, for example. Those should be taken no later than 7 PM so it doesn’t disturb your sleep.

Medications taken/used three times a day are usually every 8 hours. And four times a day usually means every 6 hours. When you take your medication, you shouldn’t be waking up in the middle of the night to take a dose. Your sleep should not be disturbed solely to take your medication. *There are exceptions to this as well. Just ASK.

Whatever time of day you are required to take your medication, try to take it around the same time every day. I usually recommend that patients have a 1 to 2 hour cushion to work with if they forget to take their medication. And once again, it depends on the medication.

There are thousands of drugs on the market and millions of people taking these medications. Since we’re all different, your body may react to a medication differently than another person would, to that same medication. This is why you need to have open lines of communication with both your doctor and your pharmacist. Let us know if something doesn’t feel right after you start taking a medication. We will advise you on what you should do next.

So, when you receive that prescription from the doctor’s office, ask how often you need to take it. Then head over to the pharmacy to pick up your prescription, and ask to be counseled by a pharmacist so you can get more information on the best time to take your medication in addition to important information about your medications. As I stressed in the previous two articles, make sure you read the material that comes with your medications.

~Dr. Dee

*Please contact your friendly neighborhood pharmacist for detailed information about your individual medication.

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