Arthritis Today

Make Your Meds Work for You

Try these six strategies to help you stick to your arthritis medication plan.


Sticking to your medication schedule isn’t always easy, especially when you’re taking several arthritis drugs. But the more closely you follow directions for your medications, the better you’ll feel and the healthier you’ll keep your joints – and your whole body.

Try these six tips to stick with your plan.

• Know your stuff. “You have to know the impact of the disease you have and to know what the drug is, what it does and what the expectations for treatment are,” says Jack E. Fincham, PhD, professor of pharmacy practice and administration in the School of Pharmacy at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. Find out how long it takes to take effect. Ask your doctor questions, and if you go online for more information, go to reliable sources, such as the National Institutes of Health, the Arthritis Foundation and Mayo Clinic.

• Set a schedule. Ask if a health practitioner in your doctor’s office can help you set up a schedule for your medications, especially if you are taking a lot of them, suggests M. Robin DiMatteo, distinguished professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, and co-author of Health Behavior Change and Treatment Adherence (Oxford University Press, 2010). “If you are taking 10 different medications, trying to figure out the schedule can be a challenge.”

• Join a medication group. Find out if your doctor offers group visits with patients who are taking the same medicine. You might pick up practical advice – like where to get a good deal on meds.

• Bargain hunt. If you have money concerns, your doctor might be able to switch your prescription to a generic version of a drug or give you some free drug samples. Check for discounted drug prices through your insurance plan, AARP or your pharmacy. Find out if buying a 90-day instead of a 30-day supply would cut costs. In some cases, a doctor might be able to prescribe a higher-dose tablet that can be cut in half to stretch funds, but always check with your pharmacist and physician before cutting any medication in half – some drugs can be less effective or harmful if cut.

• Ask your doctor if you can take combination drugs. Some drugs commonly used together are now being combined, which may ease the hassle. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, for instance, approved a new combination drug last year called Vimovo to treat osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. Vimovo combines the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID, naproxen with esomeprazole magnesium, a proton pump inhibitor, or PPI, that is often prescribed with naproxen to reduce gastrointestinal irritation.

• Check out long-lasting medications. Osteoporosis drugs are known for poor adherence rates, in large part because they are hard to take. But now patients have longer-lasting medication options. Zoledronic acid, brand name Reclast, for example, is infused annually; alendronate, brand name Fosamax, and risedronate, brand name Actonel, may be taken weekly; and ibandronate, brand name Boniva, can be given intravenously every three months.