Most people know to follow their doctor’s instructions when taking medications. They know it’s best to take the correct dosage, at the right time, with or without food, and so forth. However, research from Australia recently revealed that many patients modify their medication by crushing tablets or opening capsules to make them easier to swallow—a practice that could reduce the effectiveness of their medications and even be dangerous. The research team, from University of Queensland, cautions that before altering their medications in this way, patients should be sure to consult with their healthcare provider or pharmacist.
Dr. Esther Lau and her colleagues surveyed a group of patients and found that almost half were unaware that crushing tablets or opening capsules could cause a problem. They also learned that ten percent of the patients surveyed reported modifying their medication in this way. Most did so because they experienced problems swallowing the pills or capsules, but some did so even if they had no problem swallowing their medications. Said Dr. Lau, “It is concerning that this many of the people surveyed did not think there would be an issue with crushing or modifying tablets or capsules. Depending on the tablet or capsule, and the type of medicine, modifying the dosage forms can lead to reduced effectiveness of the medication, and increased risk of adverse effects.”
For example, the National Institutes of Health warns that many pills are designed to slowly release medication over time; crushing can cause too much medicine to enter the person’s system at once. Other pills have a special coating to protect the stomach lining or to keep the pill from dissolving ineffectively in the stomach. Yet many patients, especially seniors, might mix their medications with food or drink to make them easier to swallow.
The National Institutes on Aging advises seniors to talk to their healthcare provider if it is difficult to swallow medications. Be sure to read the patient leaflet that comes with your medicine. Talk to your doctor and/or pharmacist before changing the way you take your medicines. In some cases, the doctor can prescribe a liquid form of the medication. And patients who have unaddressed swallowing difficulty should report this.
The information in this article is not meant to replace the advice of your healthcare provider. If you have questions about your medications, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.
Source: IlluminAge AgeWise reporting on a study from Queensland University of Technology (www.qut.edu.au).
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