Organize Your Meds

I'm not as organized as I would like to be. Pants and shirts are mixed together in my drawers. Crackers and spices sometimes get intermingled in my pantry. I often have to hunt for something in a pile of papers on my desk. Although I would like to get better about this, I think that's all pretty normal and really not a problem.
However, I do think that one place that we all need to be very organized is around our medications. This is important for many reasons:
  • It helps us remember to take them 
  • It helps us remember when to reorder them or refill our prescription 
  • It helps when we go to the doctor and have to list our current meds 
  • It helps our loved ones find them if we need their assistance 
  • It helps if we ever have an accident or medical emergency and medical personnel need to know exactly which medications we are taking 
So, I am going to give you a little exercise that will take no longer than 10 to 15 minutes. By the end of this time, your medications will be in perfect order.
Here are the steps:
  1. Gather all your medications. This would include everything that you take on a regular basis – your disease-modifying therapy, your symptom management drugs, any meds you take for other conditions. If you take certain over-the-counter medications frequently (like pain relief for your headache or a vitamin supplement), put those in the pile, too.
  2. Grab a piece of paper and make 5 columns, labeled: Medication, Dose, How Often Taken, Refill/Expiration Date, Special Instructions. Fill them out. It might look like this: "Copaxone; 20 mg; 1x/day; Call for refill 3/10; Autoinject set at 3." 
  3. Your list is done. I would suggest making a couple of copies of this and putting one with your meds, as well as in your purse or briefcase. Give one to your spouse or other family member (even if they don't live with you), just to have access to the list at all times. Also, make a copy to give to your doctors – I know my neurologist does not have me list out all my meds each time I go and often has no idea what I am taking from other specialists unless I tell him. Often, there are clues to some of the symptoms that we are having (ex. fatigue, constipation, insomnia) when the list of medications is in front of the doctor. 
  4. Put your meds in spots where you will find them easily and that make sense to you. I put my morning medications in a kitchen cabinet and my nighttime medications by the sink in my bathroom. 
You are done. Doesn't that feel good? Now, for extra credit:

  1. Go to Drug Interactions Checkeron the Internet. Enter the names of all the medications on your list. See if any of them have interactions or special instructions that you need to ask your doctor about. You can even save your list on the site, which will allow you to check any drug that is prescribed or any over-the-counter therapy that you are thinking of trying. This is one of the most useful things that we can do for our health and I love this tool. (Read more here: Check Out Drug Interactions Checker.) 
  2. Go through your medicine cabinet and pull out ALL of the old medicine there. Look at supplements, over-the-counter and prescription medications that you aren't currently taking. Weed through these – discard expired stuff, antibiotics that you didn't finish, drugs that you will never take again because they didn't work or the side effects were awful. Don't just throw all of these in the trash – ask your local pharmacy about medicine disposal in your area.
Please, do put in a couple of minutes and organize your medications. It's just a smart thing to do for convenience and for our health.

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Julie Stachowiak, PhD

Julie is the author of the Multiple Sclerosis Manifesto, the winner of the 2009 ForeWord Book of the Year Award in the Health Category. She is an epidemiologist who is also a person living with MS, Julie has an in-depth understanding about current research and scientific developments around MS. She also has first-hand knowledge of the frustrations and anxiety surrounding the disease, as she had MS for at least 15 years before receiving a diagnosis in 2003 and has had several relapses since her diagnosis.