Benefits and disadvantages of taking multiple medicines

Listen to patients and health professionals talk about people's positive and negative experiences with taking multiple medicines.

Everyone we spoke to noted that, while there are many disadvantages to taking multiple medicines, there are also definite benefits to be gained. We also asked them what the ‘best’ and ‘worst’ things are about having to take multiple medicines.

The side effects of medicines and finding effective ways to remember to take their medicines are often mentioned as being the most significant disadvantages of taking multiple medicines. For many people, the sheer number of medicines they take is the worst thing about their medicines. They also describe the fatigue of their necessary and relentless medication routines and knowing that they will be dependent on medicines for the rest of their life.

For some people, taking multiple medicines is a clear and visible reminder that they are not perfectly healthy.


What a high number of medicines signifies

Mary is mostly bothered by the amount of medicines that she takes.

Brian’s medicines remind him that he has a number of health conditions every time he takes them. He also finds that having to be in a routine with medicines and adapting that as needed can be tiresome.

Niall feels he is dependent on a lot of medicines and, since he is still young, they remind him that there will be more medicines as he ages.


Complicated medication regimens and confusion

Complicated medicine regimens require work and may cause confusion. In addition, some people lack understanding about changes to their medicines: they are not always certain that they are taking the right thing or getting the regimen right. This is particularly true if the medicines are not particularly effective, as there is no sign that they are working. For them, this is the worst thing about taking so many medicines.

Jane has found that the practicalities of managing medicines have been the worst thing for her, particularly when changes have been made and she does not understand the reasons why.

Diana is not confident her medicines are working sufficiently to treat her health problems. She feels that some doctors are dismissive of her when she tries to raise this with them.

People on home haemodialysis have an additional factor to consider with respect to their medicines. They need to limit their fluid intake, which can be challenging when they are also taking tablets or capsules.

Sandy often finds it difficult to adequately limit her fluid intake because she has to take a number of oral medicines.


The main benefit: saving or prolonging life

For a number of people, there really isn’t a ‘worst’ thing about taking multiple medicines, as they have few or no problems with their medicines.

Peter S feels there is no longer a ‘worst’ thing about his medicines now that he has a Webster-pak, even though he is taking many medicines.

There are benefits to taking their medicines for everyone we spoke to. Sometimes these are not the most immediate aspects of their medicines—the benefits were realised at some cost. The most important benefit for many people is that their medicines saved and/or prolong their life.

Peter S has a clear goal for his life of meeting his newborn grandson and seeing him grow up. His medicines will make that possible.

Lesley believes she would not have lived this long were it not for her medicines.

Mia is aware that, had she been born in an earlier time, she probably would not be alive today.


Symptom relief

For a number of people, getting some relief from the symptoms of their condition was is the most beneficial aspect about their medicines.

Niall knows that he is doing the right thing with his medicines because of the reduction in his symptoms, as well as his test results.

Lyn has experienced significant pain relief because of her medicines, which has had a positive impact on all areas of her life.


Being able to do things

Because medicines have helped people to be well and reduced their pain, they are able to do the things they want to do and live the kind of life they intended for themselves.

Nancy is still able to live an active life in her 80s because of her medicines.

Lyn knows that she would not be able to do the things she wants to do if it were not for her medicines.

Karen’s condition means she has reassessed what is important to her and what she wants from life. Medication is helping her to achieve those things.


Being proactive about their health

For some people, being on medicines means that they can do something about their condition.

Diana has learned through managing her conditions that she can take control of her health and her life. She now feels she is able to help other people do the same.

Some people have found the right combination of medicines after a long and arduous process and they are finally feeling well. This has tremendous benefits for their quality of life.

It has been a long, hard road for Jane to find the right combination of medicines that work for her. She feels that her life is really just starting now that she feels so well.


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The Living with multiple medicines project was developed in collaboration with

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