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:
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 do not need to take it anymore.
If you stop taking your medicine before you are supposed to, you will not get its full effect, or your condition can get worse. Here are some examples:
When you take antibiotics, you will feel better in 1 to 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 does not 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 do not 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 want to cut costs.
DO NOT cut pills in half unless your doctor tells you to. DO NOT take fewer doses than prescribed or take your medicine only when you feel bad. Doing so 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 drug companies have programs for reducing patient costs.
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.
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. 20 Tips to Help Prevent Medical Errors: Patient Fact Sheet. Last reviewed: September 2011. Avaiable at: www.ahrq.gov/patients-consumers/care-planning/errors/20tips/index.htm. Accessed October 27, 2014.
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Your Medicine: Be Smart. Be Safe. (with wallet card). Updated April 2011. Available at: archive/ahrq.gov/patients-consumers/diagnosis-treatment/treatments/safemeds/yourmeds.html. Accessed October 27, 2014.
Institute for Safe Medication Practices. Keep Track of Your Medicine. Available at: www.consumermedsafety.org/tools-and-resources/medication-safety-tools-and-resources/taking-your-medicine-safely/keep-track-of-your-medicine. Accessed October 27, 2014.
Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.