Not all kinds of medication are easy to use. Tablets might be large or have an unpleasant taste, making them harder to swallow. Using eye drops correctly can take some practice. And what does “cannot be taken together with dairy products” really mean? For instance, are you allowed to eat yogurt shortly after taking the medication?
What is important to consider when taking medication? What can make it easier? What kinds of dosage forms are there, and what can help you remember to take the medicine regularly?
Taking a few tablets for a nagging headache or toothache is usually straightforward. But it can be difficult to keep taking one medication regularly for a long period of time. It can be especially hard if you have to take several medicines because of chronic conditions like diabetes, arthritis or heart disease. Just keeping track of it all can be a challenge.
Different medications might affect each other when taken together, resulting in a different effect or increasing the likelihood of side effects. So it is important to look out for possible interactions. This is especially true for older people who take several medications to treat various conditions. Their bodies absorb the medicine differently than when they were younger, making side effects and interactions more common. The use of some medications also increases the risk of falling. There is also a risk of becoming dependent on some kinds of medications, such as sedatives and sleeping pills.
Special areas of use
Sometimes medicines are used to treat medical conditions for which they have not been licensed by the country's regulatory authorities. This kind of use, known as "off-label" use, might be associated with special risks.
When children need to take medicine it is especially important to check that the dose is correct to avoid unnecessary risks. It can be easy to give them too much medication, particularly if the medicine is in liquid form, such as liquid antibiotics, painkillers or cough syrup. You may need to be patient when giving medicine to very young children.
The correct use of antibiotics is another important topic. Using antibiotics incorrectly or too frequently is also risky – this not only increases the risk of side effects, but it also leads to bacteria becoming resistant and the drugs losing their effectiveness.
Friedland J. Arzneiformenlehre. Stuttgart: WVG; 2009.
Kretz FJ, Reichenberger S. Medikamentöse Therapie. Arzneimittellehre für Gesundheitsberufe. Stuttgart: Thieme; 2007.
Lüllmann H, Mohr K, Hein L. Taschenatlas Pharmakologie. Stuttgart: Thieme; 2008.
Plötz H. Kleine Arzneimittellehre für Fachberufe im Gesundheitswesen. Heidelberg: Springer; 2007.
IQWiG health information is written with the aim of helping
people understand the advantages and disadvantages of the main treatment options and health
Because IQWiG is a German institute, some of the information provided here is specific to the German health care system. The suitability of any of the described options in an individual case can be determined by talking to a doctor. We do not offer individual consultations.
Our information is based on the results of good-quality studies. It is written by a team of health care professionals, scientists and editors, and reviewed by external experts. You can find a detailed description of how our health information is produced and updated in our methods.