Through a collaboration with CreakyJoints, Walgreens, and AllianceRx Walgreens Prime, we’ve developed this column to address patients’ common questions about medication with an expert pharmacist trained in chronic inflammatory disease. The information provided in this column is for informational purposes only and is not intended to take the place of consultation with your physician. If you have concerns about your health or treatment, please contact your physician, pharmacist, or other medical professional.
If you have a question you’d like to ask, please submit it here. We may feature it in a future column.
Whenever you start a new medication, it is normal to have many questions. That’s a good thing. For optimal results, it is important that you, as a patient, understand everything you can about your medication. Having all your questions addressed and answered may make you feel more comfortable and prepared. This is especially important when you have a chronic disease that requires you to take your medication for a long period of time.
Three of the most important things to understand right away are:
1) Why you are taking a particular medication? Why did your provider prescribe it and how is it supposed to help relieve your symptoms or treat your condition?
2) How do you take a particular medication? People with arthritis who are starting injectable biologics, for example, may have many questions right away about how to inject themselves using syringes or auto-injectors.
3) When should you take a particular medication? Another important question you should always make sure to ask when starting a new medication is what time of day is best to take it. We’ll explore why in the rest of this article.
Medication Timing: The Importance of Knowing When to Take Your Medication
They say “timing is everything”— and that can also apply to what time of day you take certain medications. Determining the best time to take your medication depends on several different factors, including:
- What types of side effects the medication may cause
- When the medication is most effective
- What works best for your lifestyle
Depending on the medication(s) you are prescribed, you may experience different side effects. Understanding the potential side effects caused by a medication can help you determine what time of the day is best for taking your medication.
Take Medications That Make You Sleepy at Night
Some medications may affect your sleep patterns. For example, corticosteroid medications such as prednisone, which is used to reduce inflammation in the body, could cause insomnia if taken in the evening. It is recommended to take these medications in the morning with food to avoid any changes in your sleep patterns. On the other hand, the medication methotrexate has been known to cause fatigue; therefore, some patients prefer to take it before bed.
Take Medications That Cause Discomfort at Night
Non sleep-related side effects can also impact this decision. For example, if injecting your medication causes injection-site discomfort, you may choose to inject it at bedtime and sleep through this soreness. Also, if your medication causes nausea after taking it, then administering it before you go to sleep may be a good option for you. If you can’t sleep at night due to pain, you may want to take your pain medication (such as an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen) in the evening so that the medication has a chance to begin working before you go to bed.
Take Certain Medications with Meals
Additionally, some medications should be taken with food to improve absorption or help with stomach discomfort. If this is the case, be sure to time your medication administration with meals, such as with breakfast each morning.
Medication Timing and Circadian Rhythms
Another important component to consider when scheduling your medication is when it will work best in your body. Your body follows a circadian rhythm, or cycle of internal changes that depend on the time of day.
If you have an inflammatory condition, you may have noticed that your symptoms (such as inflammation and stiffness) are worse in the morning when you first wake up. This is because certain chemicals, such as the anti-inflammatory chemical cortisol, drop when you are sleeping.
Some medications aim to reduce the impact these changes have on your condition. Your doctor or pharmacist can help you understand how long it takes until the medication will work in your body. For example, a type of delayed-release prednisone (Rayos®) is designed to release medication about four hours after you take it, so this product should be taken at bedtime to ensure that the medication will be most active in your body when you need it most: in the early morning.
When Medication Timing Doesn’t Matter
Sometimes, the timing of medication administration isn’t determined by medication side effects or efficacy. In this case, it is important to think outside the box. For these types of medications, consider what works best for your lifestyle. Think about your schedule and routines.
For example, injectable biologics (used to treat various inflammatory conditions) work over an extended period of time; therefore it may not matter what time of the day you administer it. You may decide that it’s best to take an injectable medication in the evening, when you have someone available to help you administer your dose. Some patients report that they prefer to inject their weekly or biweekly medication at the end of a workweek, so that if they do experience side effects, such as fatigue, these will occur over the weekend.
Remembering to Take Your Medication
If you are still unsure of when to take your medication, ask yourself when you will remember to take it. It is estimated that about 50 to 60 percent of people with chronic conditions do not take their medication as prescribed. Although there are many complex reasons as to why people do not take their medication, the fact is sometimes we simply forget.
In this article from Drugs.com on ways to remember to take your medication every day, one important tip is to tie taking your medication to a daily routine, such as brushing your teeth, taking a shower, or eating dinner. This will help taking your medication start to become a habit. Over time, taking your medication will become part of your routine, and not something you have to worry about remembering.
You may be on several different medications or a medication that is taken multiple times throughout the day. This can add a layer of complexity to your administration routine. In these cases, it is crucial to develop a solid routine and stick to it.
The best time to take your medication depends on many different factors, including side effects, how the medication works, and simply what works best for your lifestyle. Most importantly, remain consistent. For safety and efficacy purposes, develop a routine and stick with it. This will provide the best results and give you the best chance at the outcomes you are striving for.
Work with your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions or concerns. Improving your quality of life is their top priority.
Taking your medication the right way — and at the right time — will give you the best outcomes for your health.
Renee Baiano, PharmD, CSP, is a clinical program manager on the clinical services team at AllianceRx Walgreens Prime. She is a certified specialty pharmacist, with a focus on chronic inflammatory disease. Baiano was previously a Walgreens retail pharmacist and Walgreens Specialty Pharmacy staff pharmacist. She is a graduate of Duquesne University Mylan School of Pharmacy.
Alliance Rx Walgreens Prime is a corporate sponsor of the Global Healthy Living Foundation.