During your treatment you may be prescribed several different types of medication (medicine). It is a good idea to keep an up-to-date list of all the medication you are taking and take that list with you to all your medical appointments. Make a note of the name of the medicine, when you started taking it, the strength (milligrams) and how many times a day you take it. This will help your GP, oncologist and pharmacist be aware of any interactions between your usual medications and those prescribed by your oncologist. (This also applies to over-the-counter preparations, ‘health’ shop items and nutritional supplements etc).
You can ask your pharmacist for a brochure called “Five Ways to Be Medication Wise” which will make it easy for you to keep track of your medications.
A “Webster” pack is a safe and simple medication pack which sets out all the tablets and capsules that need to be taken at each particular time of the day, for each day of the week. This makes it easy to manage medication.
If you use a “Webster” pack for your medication, be sure to let your pharmacist know if your doctor changes the type or dose of medication you take.
Don’t forget to take your Medicare and any Health Benefit cards with you when you have medication dispensed.
It is important to keep track of your medication supply to ensure you don’t run out of it, particularly if you don’t have a repeat prescription to take to the pharmacy. Advise your doctor at each visit if you think you may need a repeat prescription before your next visit is due. Some cancer medications are not kept on the pharmacy shelves, but ordered specifically for each patient, so it is a good idea to give your pharmacy a few days’ notice to obtain your medicines.
Choose a safe place in your home to store your repeat prescriptions. If you always use the same pharmacy, they may offer to keep them for you.
Some medication is referred to as Schedule 8. This is a category of medicine which is strictly controlled and not all doctors may prescribe it and not all pharmacies may keep large amounts of it. For example, narcotic pain prescriptions are in this category. Carefully monitor your medication needs, especially pain medication, and allow enough time to obtain more of it (or a new prescription for it) before your current medication runs out. Sometimes more than one pain medication of the same name may be prescribed; one to be taken at regular intervals for long acting pain relief and the other to be taken only when needed.
It is important that you store your medications safely and this information will be given to you by the Pharmacist or by reading the information sheet inside your medication. All medication should be safely stored away from children. Some medication needs to be kept cool and some may need to be store in the door of your fridge.
The information on the label of your medication is important to read and follow. This information may include how to store your medication, when to take it, whether to take it before or after meals and the expiry date. If you have difficulty reading or understanding the label, ask for help from family or your Pharmacist.
If you are told to stop taking medication and you have some tablets/liquid left, seek advice from your Pharmacist. You should not simply throw them out or pour them down the sink. Particularly the strong pain relief medication and chemotherapy medication needs to be carefully disposed of. Your Pharmacist will either dispose of it for you or advise you how to do it yourself.
If you have any medication that is injected, there will be specific information given to you about how to dispose of the medication and the syringe/needle. You may given a special container for the needle (a yellow “sharps” container) and advice on where to take the container when it is full.
The PBS (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme) Safety Net helps people who need a lot of medication with the cost of their medicines. Once you’ve reached your PBS Safety Net threshold your PBS medicines will be less expensive or free for the rest of the calendar year. If you always have your medication dispensed at the same pharmacy they will keep a record and will let you know when you qualify for the Safety Net.
Further information is available regarding the PBS Safety Net.
If you have any concerns about the medication you are prescribed ask your doctor and pharmacist for advice.