Myth Busters: Taking Arthritis Meds
Get the facts straight when it comes to taking your arthritis medications.
1. Myths and Facts
2. How often?
Fact: Take your pain meds – like acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – on a schedule that you set up with your doctor. Keeping the pain and inflammation at bay is better than trying to get it back under control once it’s gotten bad.
3. Less or more?
Fact: More meds could make you sick, damage organs or be fatal. If your medicine isn’t working as well as you want, talk to your doctor about whether a higher dose is safe or if you need a different medicine.
4. Stop or keep going?
5. Can I afford this?
Fact: There’s often a solution. If you don’t have insurance or your insurance doesn’t cover enough of the price of your medicine, talk with your pharmacist and your doctor. There may be cost assistance from the drug company, a generic or a different drug that will be less expensive
6. Brand or generic?
Fact: Generics and biosimilars are approved by the FDA to be the same as their brand-name counterparts in dosage, safety, effectiveness, strength and quality.
7. Missed dose?
Fact: Some medicines should be taken as soon as you remember, some should wait until your next scheduled dose, and some can be doubled up. It all depends on the drug. Read the inserts that come with your medicine or ask your pharmacist what to do if you miss a dose.
8. Waste not, want not?
Fact: Some pills can be broken in half so you get 5 mg instead of 10 mg. But extended-release or slow-acting pills can’t be broken in half. Capsules can’t be broken apart either. If your doctor reduced your dose and you want to break your pills in half so you don’t waste them, ask your pharmacist first.
9. Can We share?
Fact: Even if you think you’ve got the same problem, you may have something different that has similar symptoms. And even if you do have the same disease, your treatments or dosages may not be the same. Always go to the doctor and get your own diagnosis and treatment plan.
10. Are supplements safer?
Fact: Though supplements are considered “natural,” that doesn’t always mean they aren’t strong drugs. The powerful heart medicine digoxin comes from the flower foxglove. Unlike medicines like digoxin, however, the law doesn’t require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve the safety and effectiveness of dietary supplements. That means companies may list ingredients on the label that aren’t actually in the bottle. Supplements can also contain contaminants, like heavy metals or illegal drugs.
11. Diet it away?
Fact: Reducing your dietary intake of purines may cut back on the number of attacks you have. But to have a real impact on your blood uric acid levels and stop your gout, you will need medicine to decrease the amount your body makes or increase the amount your kidneys excrete.
12. Should I tell all?
Fact: Even though they don’t require a prescription, supplements affect your body and how your prescribed medicines work. For example, if you take methotrexate, your doctor will probably prescribe folic acid supplements for you. If you’re already taking a multivitamin that includes B vitamins, she needs to know so you don't take too much.
13. Can I have it all?
Fact: Before you take any OTC med, you need to make sure you’re not doubling up on some ingredient. For example, if you take a prescription NSAID like diclofenac or Voltaren, you shouldn’t add an OTC NSAID like ibuprofen. You also need to make sure that the drugs you’re taking won’t interact with each other. Check with your pharmacist or doctor before adding any OTC med.
14. Am I a headcase?
Fact: Medicines used to treat depression increase levels of certain “feel good” chemicals in your brain. Those same chemicals reduce transmission of pain signals. So, your doctor is treating your pain at the level of your brain instead of at the level of your muscles and joints.
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