Making Sense of Your Medicines

Reviewed by Robert Ehrman, MD

Making Sense of Your Medicines

If you spend a lot of time thinking about taking your medicines, you are not alone. According to a recent study, many people struggle to take their medicines safely and correctly. The average person with diabetes takes 7-9 pills a day.  That’s a lot of pills to manage!

 Five tips to help you manage your medicines

  1. Once-a-day medicines can usually be taken any time. The important thing is to take them at about the same time every day. Some medicines work better when taken in the morning or at night. Ask your healthcare provider what time of day is best for the medicines you are taking.
  2. Take your medicines at mealtimes whenever possible. It’s usually easier to remember. And stick with a regular meal/medicine schedule as much as possible. If your schedule happens to change, ask your healthcare provider about the best way to deal with it.
  3. If the label says to take after meals or on a full stomach, take them when you finish eating.
  4. Bedtime can mean different things on different days. Choose a time and remember to take your medicines at that time, regardless of when you go to bed. Try setting the alarm on your watch or cellphone as a reminder.
  5. If the label doesn’t say anything about food, you don’t need to be concerned about when you take your medicines—though it is often easier to remember if you take them at mealtimes.

The study also found that many people did not fully understand what the instructions on their medicine bottles meant. They often took medicines more times per day than needed. Most people find that the more often they have to remember to take their medicines, the easier it is to forget. So what can you do?

Ask your Costco pharmacist the following questions:

  1. Is there a particular time of the day it is best to take this medicine?
  2. Do I need to avoid certain foods or drinks with this medicine?
  3. Is it safe to drink alcohol with this medicine?
  4. What are the side effects?
  5. How do I store this medicine?

Also, ask your pharmacist to help you make a plan or a calendar that will fit in to your day and help you get the most from your medicines.


What does the label on my pill bottle mean?

If the label says:                                                   It means:

Take on an empty stomach                                   Take at least two hours after eating,
                                                                           or one hour before you start eating
Take before meals                                              Take right before you start eating
Take with food and liquid                                         Take during or after your meal
Take with meals or at mealtime                                   Take during or after your meal
Take every 12 hours                                           Take twice daily, 12 hours apart
                                                                             (for example: 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.)
Take every eight hours                                            Take three times a day, 8 hours
                                                                             apart (for example: 7 a.m., 3 p.m. and 11 p.m.)



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  1. Control Your Diabetes on a Budget | CDIABETES.COM

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