Managing multiple medications can be challenging for people living with Parkinson’s disease (PD), and it is important to take PD medications on a regular dosing schedule to get effective symptom relief. In the early stages of the disease, missing a dose or taking it later than usual might not have significant effects. As PD progresses, it becomes more critical to adhere to the medication’s scheduled dosing, as many people experience “on” and “off” times. “On” times are when the medication is “on,” or working effectively, and PD symptoms are minimal. “Off” times occur when the medication is wearing off, such as right before the next scheduled dose, and symptoms are more noticeable. It is recommended that people with PD see a neurologist who is a movement disorders specialist, as they are trained in understanding the different medications and potential interactions with other drugs.
Tips to manage medication and increase “on” time
- Understand what to expect with your prescribed medications. Ask your doctor if your medications should be taken with food or on an empty stomach, what the possible side effects are, and if there are any interactions to avoid (such as certain drugs, over-the-counter medicines, or vitamins that should not be used with prescribed medications).
- Notice how your medications make you feel, particularly note how long it takes before the medication starts working (your PD symptoms lessen) and how you feel when the medication starts to wear off. This is also helpful to share with your doctor.
- Have all your prescriptions filled at one pharmacy. Using one pharmacy for all your prescriptions isn’t just convenient; it also helps because your pharmacist understands everything you’re taking. Pharmacists are a part of your healthcare team and can protect you from possible drug interactions.
- Get your prescriptions refilled early. Don’t wait until you run out of your medications before getting a refill, as skipping a dose or taking it later than usual may greatly impact your PD symptoms. Schedule refills at least a week before you run out to ensure you will have your medication.
- Use a pill dispenser. Pill dispensers make it easy to see if you’ve taken your dose of medicines, as separate compartments are labeled for each day. Some pill boxes have different compartments for morning, noon, and night.
- Keep a list of your medications. It’s helpful for you or your care partner to keep a list with all the medications, supplements, and vitamins that you take in one place. This list should include the name of the medication, the dosage, and the time schedule of when it is taken. Periodically review this list with your doctor, as different doctors may prescribe different medications for you, particularly if you have multiple health conditions. Doctors need to understand everything you are taking to help manage side effects and prevent adverse drug interactions.
- Use reminders or timers. Use an alarm or a reminder on your phone to alert you when it’s time to take your next dose. Or, ask your caregiver/care partner to help you remember when it’s time to take your next dose.
- Pay attention to side effects. If you notice any change in how you are feeling, physically, mentally, or emotionally, contact your doctor right away. Side effects can sometimes be serious and should not be ignored. It may be possible to switch medications or reduce the dose to manage side effects.1,2