How to Manage Multiple Diabetes Medications

Dealing with the daily regimen of a whole array of pills can be time consuming, confusing, and annoying. On the plus side, being on multiple meds can give you better blood sugar control, which makes you healthier in the long run.

To get the most from your meds, keep these 10 tips from the experts in mind:

1. When in doubt, ask questions of your healthcare provider. Don't leave your doctor's office without knowing exactly what you should be taking and when. If there's any information on the bottle that you don't understand, ask.

2. Get a final copy of your prescriptions and dosing directions from your doctor. Be sure the doctor includes any and all new medications that may have been added.

3. Make sure to ask about dosing. For instance, if something says "3 times a day," does that mean every eight hours, or that it should be evenly spaced out during the hours the person is awake? Check and recheck with your doctor.

4. If you think you are having side effects related to your medications, call the doctor promptly. This isn't something that should wait until the next visit.

5. Be sure you read all the labels very carefully. If a label reads "Take with food," this means that you ought to have a few bites, not a whole meal. It's a directive that's given so that a particular medication won't upset your stomach. If a medication says "avoid alcohol," this means that there could be safety concerns if a patient drinks while on this medication.

6. Develop your own personal system for taking several medications each day, since when you are on multiple medications, it's easy to lose track. You may want to set a cell phone alarm to tell you when to take a medication.

7. Be sure to tell the doctor and the pharmacist about any non-diabetes-related medications that you are taking. And this doesn't just mean prescription meds. It means your healthcare providers need to know if you are taking calcium, vitamins, or herbal supplements. Why herbs? Some of them have a blood glucose lowering effect, so your doctor needs to know of any you take regularly.

8. Stay in close touch with your doctor when you are on multiple medications. Don't wait three months until your next regularly scheduled visit to address a concern if one crops up sooner.

9. Be sure to find out how long you will be taking a medication, and also how long before it will start to work. Some medications take several weeks to work, so don't expect instant miracles.

10. At the pharmacy, take each medication out of the bag and review the instructions. And check carefully, comparing the written prescription to what is in the bottle, to make sure you are getting just what the doctor ordered.




Amy Hess Fischl, MS, RD, LDN, BC-ADM, CDE, of the University of Chicago Kovler Diabetes Center

Stanley Mirsky, MD, of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City

Errol Rushovich, MD, of Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, MD