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When you feel like changing your medicine

You may find a time when you want to stop or change your medicine. But changing or stopping your medicine on your own can be dangerous. It could make your condition worse. 

Learn how to talk to your doctor and pharmacist about your medicine. You can make decisions together so you feel well with your medicines.

Common Reasons for Changing Medicine

You may think about stopping or changing your medicine when you: 

  • Feel better
  • Think it is not working 
  • Are having side effects and feel bad 
  • Are worried about the costs

Do Not Stop Taking Your Medicine When You Feel Better

You often feel better quickly from taking some medicine. You may feel like you don’t need to take it anymore. 

Know that you will not get the full effect, or you could make your condition worse, if you stop taking your medicine before you are supposed to. Here are some examples: 

  • When you take antibiotics, you will feel better in 1 - 2 days. If you stop taking the medicine early, you may get sick again. 
  • If you are taking a steroid pack for your asthma, you will feel better quickly. You may think you can stop taking it because you feel so good. Suddenly stopping a steroid pack can make you feel very sick.

Do Not Stop Taking Your Medicine If You Think It Isn’t Working

If you do not feel better, you may think your medicine is not working. Talk to your doctor before you make any changes. Find out:

  • What to expect from the medicine. Some medicines may take more time to make a difference. 
  • If you are taking the medicine correctly 
  • If there is another medicine that may work better

If Your Medicine Makes You Feel Sick, Talk to Your Doctor

Some medicines may make you feel sick. You may have a sick stomach, itchy skin, dry throat, or something else that doesn’t feel right. 

When your medicine makes you feel sick, you may want to stop taking it. Talk to your doctor before stopping any medicine. The doctor may: 

  • Change your dose so you don’t feel sick from it 
  • Change your medicine to a different kind 
  • Give you suggestions on how to feel better when taking the medicine

Talk to Your Doctor If You Can’t Afford Your Medicine

Medicines can cost a lot of money. If you are worried about money, you may try to cut costs. 

Please do NOT cut pills in half, take fewer doses than prescribed, or take your medicine only when you feel bad. This can make your condition worse. 

Talk to your doctor if you do not have enough money for your medicine. Your doctor may be able to change your medicine to a generic brand that costs less. Many pharmacies and drugs companies have programs for reducing the cost for patients.

When to Call the Doctor

Call the doctor when you feel like changing your medicine. Know all the medicines that you take. Tell your doctor about your prescription medicines, over-the-counter drugs, and any vitamins, supplements, or herbs. Together with your doctor, decide what medicines you will take.

Alternate Names

Medication - non-compliance 

References

Your Medicine: Be Smart. Be Safe. Patient Guide. AHRQ Publication No. 11-0049-A, April 2011. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD, and the National Council on Patient Information and Education, Rockville, MD.

Update Date: 8/25/2012

Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

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