By Barbara Bronson Gray
YOU’D THINK IT would be easy to take
medications: Just read the label and carry on.
But it’s not that simple.
People often don’t understand why
they’re being asked to take the drug, how
much or how often to take it, or how diet can
affect how the medication works, says registered pharmacist Peter Zawadzki, a consultant to the Neighbourhood Pharmacy
Association of Canada, in Toronto.
Not taking your medications in the way
they are designed to work is a multi-billion-dollar problem for the health-care system,
Zawadzki says, with results such as additional physician and emergency room visits,
costs related to poor self-management of
chronic diseases and costs related to lost productivity and absenteeism.
The directions that come with drugs can
be confusing. For instance, if you’re told to
take a medication on an empty stomach,
Zawadzki suggests taking it with water, and
waiting at least an hour before eating.
If the label says “with meals,” Zawadzki
recommends taking the medication right
before or during a meal. If you don’t feel like
eating much, at least pair the drug with some-
for your health
thing solid, like toast or a few crackers, he adds.
Some prescription and non-prescription
medication labels don’t mention whether the
drugs should or should not be taken with
food. “It’s wise to consult your pharmacist,”
says Zawadzki. “Some over-the-counter drugs
like ibuprofen can irritate your stomach, so it’s
best to grab a few crackers or a small snack, if
Likewise, certain antibiotics are often bet-
ter tolerated with food, but you have to be
careful: Some lose potency if they’re taken
with milk or calcium. Ask your pharmacist for
advice, Zawadzki cautions.
Other medications should be spaced out
evenly over a 24-hour cycle. If a drug should
be taken twice a day, Zawadzki recommends
taking doses 12
hours apart, such
as at 7 a.m. and 7
p.m. If a medica-
The Costco Connection
Costco Pharmacy locations can fill prescriptions for every member of your family.
Costco pharmacists can help answer questions. Many pharmacy services are available
through Costco.ca. Pharmacies in Costco’s
Quebec locations are independently owned
tion needs to be taken three or four times a
day, ask your doctor or pharmacist about the
Some medications, such as antibiotics, are
most effective if they’re taken around the clock.
Others may be ingested just during the daytime. When that’s the case, Zawadzki suggests
linking the medication to regular daytime
activities—like brushing your teeth or having a
meal—to help ensure doses aren’t missed.
Interactions and side effects
Almost every medication or supplement
may have side effects. How do you know if a
symptom is related to a health issue, a drug
you’ve been prescribed, a supplement or even
an interaction between medications?
“Usually you would know after taking a
second dose. If the symptom repeats and
becomes worse, it’s probably related to the
medication,” says Sophia De Monte, a
Costco Pharmacy manager in Nesconset,
New York. “With each repeated dose the
symptoms appear or become more severe.”
She suggests calling your pharmacist or
physician right away.
Sophia says there are some red flags
you should know about: “If you notice
swelling in your feet, a headache that
doesn’t go away, the room is spinning or
you have blurred vision, a rash or an
allergic reaction, call your physician or
pharmacist right away.”
She also warns about taking certain
medications with alcohol. Some of the
effects won’t be noticeable right away,
but will develop over time, she explains.
Don’t drink alcohol with any pain
CHRIS A RUSNAK