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Managing Your Maintenance Medications

This post is part of our “Ask an Expert” blog series. In this post, Ken Majkowski, Pharm.D and Chief Pharmacy Officer at FamilyWize , shares some tips for managing and saving money on maintenance medications. Ken brings more than 40 years of healthcare experience to the FamilyWize team, including 14 years of clinical pharmacy experience in retail, hospital, and home care. Read his full bio, here .

The American Heart Association recently updated its guidelines for hypertension. With this change, more than 30 million adults received a new diagnosis of stage 1 hypertension and may be facing costly new prescriptions related to this diagnosis. Under the revised guidelines, it is believed that nearly half of American adults will be considered at risk for health problems caused by high blood pressure.

Moving forward, experts expect many patients to address their elevated blood pressure earlier than in the past, with the goal of managing the condition through lifestyle modifications. For some, maintenance medications may become a key component of their new lifestyle and a noticeable addition to their family budget.

What is a Maintenance Medication?

Maintenance medications are those drugs you may take on a regular basis, over an extended period of time, to treat chronic conditions, for example, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes. Maintenance medications can include both brand name and generic medications.

Tips for Managing a Maintenance Medication

First, work with your doctor and pharmacist to identify the right drug and dose for you. Prescription medications should never be one-size-fits-all, particularly if you will be taking them over a long period of time. Ask a lot of questions! For example, what time of day should you be taking your medications? What side effects might you experience? What other medications or foods may interact with your treatment? How should you store your drugs?

Most importantly, get an idea of how long you may need to take the maintenance medication. For some conditions, it may be necessary for you to take the medication for the rest of your life, for others, as long as the current condition persists. Patients often do not understand how long “maintenance” means. Asking a lot of questions up front will help to keep you safe and ensure treatment effectiveness.

Second, understand what expectations your physician has for you in both short and long term. Initially, it may be important for your physician to closely monitor your chronic condition and how well the maintenance medication is performing. Your dose may need to be increased or decreased, or another medication may need to be substituted or added. It is important that you take your medications as prescribed and equally important that you have an honest dialog with your physician about how you are actually taking your medications. This can prevent inappropriate dosing, the addition of unnecessary medications, and potentially serious side effects.

Third, take time to research the cost of your treatment. There are many variables that factor into the cost of a long-term prescription medication – choice of brand versus generic products, which pharmacy you use, health insurance coverage, and other discount programs all affect how much money you will spend. It is wise to do your research. Make sure you understand exactly which medication(s) you’ll be using and why – could a generic be an option? Then check your health insurance, if you have it, to understand exactly what will be covered. Sometimes your insurance provider may allow you to use a mail order program or get a 90-day fill at your pharmacy for maintenance medications.

Finally, look into discount programs like FamilyWize. The Free FamilyWize Prescription Discount Card is exactly what it sounds like – a free program, available to everyone, that allows you to save money on your prescription drugs. To get started, sign up at FamilyWize.org. Then use your card or the app on your phone just like you would use a coupon at the pharmacy counter. Saving a little money each month on your refills can really add up. To date, FamilyWize has helped over 10 million Americans save more than $1 billion on their prescription drugs, regardless of their insurance coverage.

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