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Managing your medications


Filling your prescriptions

Here are some tips to make sure you do not miss any doses:

  • Fill the prescriptions you have been given at your local pharmacy right away. Sometimes, the hospital can fax your prescription to your pharmacy, so you can pick up your medications on the way home.
  • Order all your prescriptions from the same pharmacy so that the pharmacist knows all the medications you are taking.
  • Order your refills a few days early to make sure the pharmacy has your medications when you need them. Some prescriptions can be renewed by a phone call from your pharmacy to your doctor or nurse practitioner.
  • Know how many refills are left on your prescriptions so you don’t run out. Follow up with your doctor or nurse practitioner to get new prescriptions when you need them.
Taking your medications as prescribed

Your healthcare team has chosen your heart medications and set the doses carefully to treat your coronary artery disease, protect your heart muscle and prevent serious problems in the future. Most people need to take their heart medications for the rest of their lives. If you stop taking them without your doctor knowing, you risk serious damage to your heart and health. It is very important to take your medications exactly as you have been told.

This means:

  • Take each medication at the same time(s) each day, at the dose you have been prescribed
  • Never share your medications with anyone else
  • DO NOT change how you take your medications on your own. Talk to your doctor, nurse practitioner or pharmacist first.

If you have trouble remembering to take your medications, there are several things you can do:

  • Buy a pill organizer from your pharmacy. They have a  separate spot for you to put your pills for each day. Some have spots for different times of the day. A quick look can tell you if you have forgotten a pill or need to take one.
  • Ask your pharmacy if you can get your medication in blister packs, also called bubble packs. Some pharmacies prepare these with enough medication for a week or more. Each pill is placed in a bubble, which is marked for a certain time of day. Just push the pill out of its bubble when you need to take it. Make sure you know how to push it out of the bubble and make sure you are strong enough to do it.
  • Keep your medications out in the open where you can see them to remind you to take them (but away from children and pets).
  • Set a reminder on your watch or phone or use a smartphone app. Text messaging services like www.ohdontforget.com can send you a reminder.

Dealing with side effects

Medications can cause side effects. Some side effects are mild, but others can be more serious. You need to learn the most common side effects of each medication you take so you will know if they happen. If you take a medication that makes you sleepy or dizzy, don’t drive or do other activities that may not be safe. If you are having a problem with side effects, talk to your pharmacist, nurse practitioner or doctor.

Watching out for interactions with food and alcohol

Ask your pharmacist about the effect of alcohol and food on your medications.

  • Grapefruit and grapefruit juice change the way some medications work, including some statins.
  • Make sure you know which medications need to be taken with food and which should be taken on an empty stomach.
  • Don’t drink alcohol if you have problems with dizziness or light-headedness or if your medication makes you sleepy. It  is usually safe to drink a small amount of alcohol with most medications, but check with your pharmacist first if you are not sure.
Storing and getting rid of medications
  • Keep all medications in safe containers, out of reach of children and pets.
  • Do not store medications in warm or humid places, such as the bathroom or on top of the refrigerator.
  • Take your old and unused medications back to the pharmacist. Do not put them in the garbage or down the sink or toilet.
Travelling with medications
  • Check with your healthcare provider before you travel. You may need to get prescription refills or tests before you leave or while you are away.
  • Make sure you have enough medication for the whole trip with some extra doses in case you are late getting home.
  • Keep your medications in their original labeled containers. Ask your pharmacist for smaller containers if you need them.
  • If you are flying or taking a train, keep your medications together in a clear plastic bag in your carry-on luggage (the bag you keep with you).
  • If you are driving, keep your medications cool and dry. Do not leave them in the glove compartment or in a hot car.
  • Refilling your prescriptions while you are away:
    In Canada: ask for your refill to be switched or transferred from your home pharmacy or go to a walk-in clinic for a new prescription. Your medications may cost more if you are not in your home province.
    Outside Canada: it can be hard to fill a prescription. Plan ahead to avoid this problem.

Travel tip

Planning a trip? Check your insurance. It may be hard to get travel insurance after a cardiac event. Travelling without insurance can be very costly if you need medical care during the trip.

Your medication list

Make a list of all your medications and always carry the list with you. Your pharmacy can print a list for you. A full list includes your prescription and non-prescription medications, vitamins, supplements and herbal and alternative products. This is especially important if you take antiplatelet or anticoagulant medications, since they may affect whether certain medical procedures can be done safely.

Make sure all your healthcare providers — doctors, dentists, pharmacists, massage therapists, physiotherapists, nurse practitioners and naturopaths — know all the medications you take. Also, a MedicAlert ID bracelet will list your illnesses or conditions if you are hurt and can’t speak.