2008-06-27 / Columnists

SJEH Wellness Corner

Commentary By The Pharmacy Department

Here are some suggestions for taking and handling drugs and medications in your home.

Check the expiration date of all medications. Expired medications are more likely to lose their effectiveness.

Enteric-coated tablets should not be chewed or crushed and should be swallowed whole. Enteric coated medications are designed to keep the medication intact until it passes through the stomach and reaches the intestine. The coating may protect the stomach from irritation or protect the drug from destruction by stomach acids. Crushing or chewing these medications can increase the risk of adverse gastrointestinal effects or diminish the drug's benefits. Examples include enteric-coated aspirin, ferrous sulfate.

Do not take prescription medications that have not been prescribed to you. Medications are prescribed for specific individual needs and many factors, such as age, weight, allergies or existing diseases, vary from one person to another. Therefore, even if two individuals have the same disease, the best treatment for each may not be the same.

Store medications properly. Store medication at room temperature, away from heat, direct light and moisture. Do not freeze medications.

Keep all medications away from children.

Finish all antibiotics even if the infection or symptoms have subsided. It is very important to finish a course of antibiotic treatment to completely diminish the underlying organism causing the infection. While on antibiotic treatment, avoid alcohol and foods high in cholesterol. Treat liquid antibiotics with care. Most liquid antibiotics are suspensions made up of particles that usually subside to the bottom of the bottle. Therefore, shaking the bottle will properly distribute the medication throughout the liquid. Store all liquid antibiotics in the refrigerator. Discard liquid antibiotics after seven days (some may be kept up to 10 to 14 days) from the date it was mixed.

Take your medication at the same time every day to obtain the full benefits of the drug and to avoid missing a dose.

Avoid grapefruit juice when you are taking blood pressure, antiarrhythmic and cholesterol medications. Drinking grapefruit juice while on cholesterol medications may increase the concentration of the medication in the bloodstream and cause serious adverse reactions. Example of blood pressure medications: Plendil®, Procardia®, Sular®. Example of antiarrhythmic medications: Amiodarone, Norpace® Example of cholesterol medications: Lipitor®, lovastatin, Zocor®.

Certain medications should be taken with food to avoid an upset stomach. Examples are Augmentin, aspirin, metronidazole, Medrol®, naproxen, Depakote®. Medications that should be taken on an empty stomach for better absorption include levothyroxine, Fosamax®, Claritin®, Prevacid®, and Plendil®.

When taking multiple drugs several times throughout the day, use a pillbox to avoid the risk of taking the same medication twice. A pillbox will help organize and differentiate medications and help you visualize taking the correct quantity of medication.

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