The Right Medication…The Wrong Time of Day

By Kindred Healthcare
The Right Medication The Wrong Time of DayMedications can help ease the pain or minimize the symptoms of diseases or conditions such as osteoarthritis or high cholesterol, but just as important as finding the right drug and dosage is making sure you're taking daily pills at the right time of the day. Not only does this help you to establish a set routine, it can also make some medications as effective as possible.

In some cases, this is so you'll have the right level of medication in your system throughout the day and night. In others, it depends on when you experience the worst symptoms. Although you shouldn't change your medication timing without speaking to your doctor or pharmacist, an article on the AARP website includes seven suggestions for common conditions:

High cholesterol: Statin drugs help reduce LDL ("bad cholesterol) and the British Heart Foundation recommends taking statins at bedtime because "cholesterol production is highest after midnight and lowest during the morning and early afternoon."

High blood pressure: ACE inhibitors and ARBs are most effective when taken at bedtime to help normalize blood pressure during the night. The article notes that blood pressure typically is lower when you're sleeping, but with high blood pressure, that may not be the case. Taking the drugs before you go to sleep "normalizes daily blood pressure rhythm and significantly decreases the risk" of stroke, heart attack and kidney disease.

Osteoarthritis: The pain of osteoarthritis can occur at different times of the day for different people. When taking NSAIDS (ibuprofen, for example), it's best to take them "four to six hours before the pain is at its worst, so that they'll kick in at the appropriate time." If you experience pain in the evenings, you should take your NSAID around mid-morning to noon so you'll have the highest levels of the drug in your system when the worst pain occurs.

Heartburn: While anyone can experience this, if you have recurring heartburn, you might be taking an H2 blocker drug to reduce acid. These are drugs such as cimetidine or famotidine. Because the stomach produces more acid between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., you should take these drugs 30 minutes before you eat dinner.

Asthma: It's more common for asthma attacks to occur at night, between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. If you are taking an oral medication, it's recommended to take it mid-afternoon. For inhaled steroids, late afternoon is best. The article notes that "the same dose taken in the morning or at night does not significantly reduce the number of attacks."

Rheumatoid arthritis: Because symptoms of RA are typically worst in the morning, you should take medications such as aspirin or other NSAIDs with dinner or before bed. This "inhibits production of substances called cytokines, which trigger morning symptoms."

Hay fever: Antihistamines are the most common remedy for hay fever, which tends to get worse during the night but is most severe in the morning. The article recommends taking once-a-day antihistamines in the evening. For those you take two times a day, take one in the morning and one in the evening.

Most importantly, remember to ask for help or additional information from your doctor or pharmacist. They can help answer any questions you may have about your medications.