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Getting the most from your medicines

As we get older, many of us find that we need to take at least one medication because of a long-term health condition. Although it often becomes routine, some people may have trouble with things such as remembering to take a dose, opening child-proof bottles, using an asthma inhaler or applying eye drops.

Your pharmacist can help you better understand your medicines and solve any medication challenges.

What should I know about my medicines?

To get the most out of your medicines and avoid unwanted side effects, you should ask your doctor or pharmacist some questions before you start taking the medication. It can be helpful to ask about:

  • different ways to treat your condition
  • what will happen if you don’t take your medication
  • the benefits of certain medications
  • any side effects or risks
  • how long you'll need to take the medication for
  • how you'll know if it's working
  • anything you should avoid while you’re using medication and afterwards
  • anything you can do to help yourself.

When you're first prescribed a drug, a health professional should sit down and talk about your condition and options with you. This will help you make an informed decision about your health and treatment.

Ultimately, the decision is yours and you don't have to agree to any treatment that you're not happy with.

It's always a good idea to keep an updated list of all your medications, including prescription, over-the-counter and herbal medications.

What could happen if I stop taking my medicines?

Suddenly stopping certain medicines can have side effects or worsen your health condition. If you’re having problems with your medication, talk to your GP or pharmacist first before making any changes.

What pharmacy services can help me with my medicines?

New Medicine Service

This is a free NHS service for people who are prescribed new medicines for certain conditions.

Your pharmacist will support you and talk to you one-to-one in the first few weeks of starting a new medication. It’s an opportunity for you to ask any questions and bring up any issues you’ve had when taking a new medicine.

You can use this service if you have conditions such as:

See which other conditions are included in the scheme on the NHS website

Structured Medication Reviews (SMRs)

This is a free NHS service for people who may have difficulties with managing multiple medications.

A pharmacist will talk to you about all your prescribed medicines, as well as any over-the-counter medicines or supplements. This could be face-to-face or remote, depending on your needs. This is a two-way process so that you can be supported to make your own decisions about the medicines you take. It gives you the chance to tell your pharmacist about problems you may be having with your medicines and to ask them questions.

Your pharmacist can give you tips about how best to take your medicines and help solve any problems you have, which should be tailored to your individual needs and wishes.

You may be prioritised for an SMR if you live in a care home, are frail or take 10 or more medicines – particularly those associated with medication errors or pain relief medication that's potentially addictive.

You may also be offered an SMR if:

  • you're admitted to hospital and medicines could've been a contributing factor, or where a review is required on discharge
  • you or a health or social care professional raise concerns about the number of medicines you're taking
  • you or your health or social care team request support to manage multiple medicines.

Other services

Your pharmacist might also offer other services that help with your medications, such as:

  • a home delivery service which may help if you have difficulty collecting your medicines
  • a health check service to help with your long-term health conditions and see if your medications are working well
  • an online repeat prescription service where you can pick up medications without having to get a paper prescription from your GP first
  • pre-packaging your medications in a blister pack so that you know what you should be taking at different times of the day. To switch your medication over to a blister pack, speak to your pharmacist

Phone icon We're here to help

We offer support through our free advice line on 0800 678 1602. Lines are open 8am-7pm, 365 days a year. We also have specialist advisers at over 120 local Age UKs.

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Last updated: Apr 08 2024

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