Heath and Aging

Safe Use of Medicines

Your questions answered

Q. I've been taking the same prescription medicine for years. Even though I'm careful to take the same amount as always, the medicine is not working like it did in the past. What is happening?

A. As you age, normal changes happen in the body. You lose water and muscle tone. Also, your kidneys and liver may not pass the drugs as quickly through your system as when you were younger. This means that many medicines act differently in older people. Medicine may take longer to leave your system.

Talk to your doctor if you think your medicine is not working as it should.

Q. Why should I talk to my doctor about the remedies, vitamins, and OTC (over-the-counter) medicines I take, along with my regular prescriptions?

A. It is very important to tell your doctor about all the medicines you take. Taking some OTC medicines with your prescription drugs can be downright dangerous. For example, you should not take aspirin if you are on Coumadin (warfarin) for heart problems.

Some OTC drugs can lead to serious problems if used too often or with certain other drugs. Combining drugs without talking to your doctor could make you sick.

Q. I'm getting sick to my stomach a lot since I started my new pills. Some days I feel so sick I think about not taking the medicine. What should I do?

A. Talk to your doctor about any side effects before you stop taking any medicines. Your doctor may have tips that can help, such as eating a light snack with your pills. You may want to talk to your doctor about switching to a new medicine.

Q. What does it mean to take medicines on an empty stomach?

A. Taking medicines on an empty stomach means that you should take your pills 2 hours before you eat or 2 hours after you eat.

Two examples:

Eat first and take the pills 2 hours later.
If you eat breakfast at 8:00 in the morning, wait for 2 hours or until 10:00 in the morning before you take your pills.

Or take the pills first and eat 2 hours later.
If you take your pills at 8:00 in the morning, wait until 10:00 in the morning to eat.

In both cases, your stomach will be empty enough for the pills to work.

Publication Date: July 2013
Page Last Updated: April 28, 2017