Myth Busters: Taking Arthritis Meds
Get the facts straight when it comes to taking your arthritis medications.
Myth: I should only take my pain medicine when I can’t stand the pain anymore.
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 in control once it’s gotten bad.
Myth: More is better. If I feel 50% better with this dose, I’ll just double the dose to feel 100% better.
Fact: More may be harmful. Too much will make you sick or damage your organs. 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.
Myth: Once I feel better, I can stop taking the medicine.
Fact: Don’t stop taking your prescribed medicine unless your doctor tells you to. Drugs that slow the course of disease – like DMARDs and biologics-- need to be taken for the long haul.
Myth: There’s nothing I can do if I can’t afford the medicine.
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.
Myth: Generic or biosimilar drugs aren’t as good as the brand-name medicines.
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.
Myth: If I forget to take my medicine, I’ll just double-up tomorrow.
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.
Myth: It’s fine to break the pill in half if I don’t need the whole dose.
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.
Myth: It’s okay to take someone else’s prescription medicine who’s having the same problem I am.
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.
Myth: Natural supplements and herbs are safer than medicine from the doctor.
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.
Myth: If I watch what I eat, I won’t need to take any gout medicine.
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.
Myth: My doctors don’t need to know about the vitamins, herbs and supplements I take.
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 that.
Myth: It’s okay to take over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen, ibuprofen or cold medicine along with my prescribed meds.
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 (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.
Myth: My doctor wants me to take antidepressants for my fibromyalgia. He must think the pain’s all in my head.
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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