From the archives: Did I take my pill this morning?


From time to time, we will visit the Wayback Machine to read stories from The Senior Times archives. This story by Éric André Michot, L.Ph., was published in January 1989.


How often have you asked yourself whether you’ve remembered to take your pill? Better yet, what did you do when you remembered?

Statistics on this subject would dumbfound you. As an example, try to remember the last antibiotic treatment you had to take. Did you finish it? If you did (and 70 per cent of patients do not), how many doses did you forget to take? Of the 30 per cent of patients who finish their treatments, about 70 per cent have forgotten at least three doses.

Is it now clearer to you why some courses of antibiotics are not successful? Patient attention to the prescribed table of doses is as important as the medication prescribed. The importance of a missed dose is dependent on the type of treatment undertaken.

Short-term acute acne treatments such as antibiotherapy are very dependent on the timing of the doses. Missed medication can give rise to resistant strains of bacteria, which then become much harder to get rid of.

As a rule, if you miss a dose of antibiotics, you should take it as soon as you can. If this means doubling the next dose because you remembered too late, you should consult with your pharmacist.

Treatment that has to extend for a certain period (but in a continuous chronic manner), such as anti-inflammatories, are affected by the regularity of the drug intake to a lesser extent. If the medication is short-lived in your system and your body can get rid of it quickly, a missed dose can be critical, whereas drugs that are long-lived are much less affected. 

Finally, the same policy should be followed for chronic drug treatments. These are treatments for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, etc. These treatments bring your body back to normalcy, lower your blood pressure, lower your cholesterol and regulate your blood sugar.

By normalizing your body, you are obviously going to feel better. The temptation is to say that since you are feeling better, you can stop taking your pills. Wrong! Your condition did not get better by itself. The pills are doing what they are supposed to. If you stop taking them, you are back to Square One.

In a chronic treatment, a missed dose can be important, although not as dramatic. Because of the length of the treatment, you can have a certain store of the medication to rely on when you miss your dose. Should you take the missed dose at once or double up the next one? Ask your pharmacist or your physician.

If you are having trouble taking your pills regularly, this can indicate a mental block. Many patients have told me that they hate their pills and wished they didn’t have to take them. This is in part due to the misunderstanding of what the drug is actually doing in their body and the lack of trust the patient has in the treatment. A patient leaving the pharmacy should feel comfortable with his medication. He should understand its intended use, possible side-effects and interactions.

Here are some rules to follow:

  • Understand your treatment and the intended use of the prescribed medication.
  • Take your pills when you are supposed to and try to take them at the same time every day.
  • Take your pills for the duration of time indicated by your physician.
  • In some cases, you must decide when to take the pills (as for anxiety).
  • If you miss a dose, remember to consult your pharmacist or physician about your options.



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