Top tips on managing your Parkinson's medication
- Try to take your medication at the same set times every day as advised by your specialist or Parkinson’s nurse
- Tell your specialist or Parkinson’s nurse straight away if you experience any side effects from the drugs you take to treat Parkinson’s.
- Don’t stop taking or change the dose or timing of your Parkinson’s drugs until you have spoken to your health professional as this can increase your symptoms.
- Do not stop taking your Parkinson’s medication unless your specialist or Parkinson’s nurse tells you to.
- If you forget to take your dose, take it as soon as you remember and then adjust the time of your next dose. For example, if you take doses at 8am, 12pm, 4pm and 8pm and you forget your midday dose until 2pm, your next ones should be at 6pm and 10pm.
- Do not take two doses together to make up for a dose that you forgot to take or take your late dose really close to your next one.
- If you are taking a once daily medication and you forget a dose, you can still take the dose if you remember on the same day. But, if you don’t remember until the following day you shouldn’t double up your dose.
- Ask your specialist, Parkinson’s nurse or pharmacist questions if there’s anything you don’t understand or any symptoms you are particularly worried about. They won’t mind. You can also ask for written information.
- Keep a diary or chart when your specialist team starts you on a new drug, changes your drugs or adjusts the dose or frequency. Record the dose and time you took the drug and what happened to your symptoms. This can help you decide together on how well the drug is working.
- You may want to wear MedicAlert jewellery or carry our medication card to help people know in an emergency situation that you have Parkinson’s and what medication you take.
We hear of many tools that people with Parkinson’s use to remind them to take their medication on time. The trick is to find a solution to suit you. You can try using alarms on a digital watch or setting a reminder on a smartphone.
A pill timer is a box that you can store your Parkinson’s drugs in to remind you when to take each dose. They are useful if you have to take lots of different tablets or if you have trouble remembering to take your medication.
Some are divided into different times of day, so you can store all of your Parkinson’s drugs for one day. Others are big enough to hold your tablets for a whole week, with sections for each day. Some weekly pill timers are also split into times of day.
Pill timers vary in cost, depending on the type and who it is made by. An occupational therapist or pharmacist can help you to choose the right option. The Disabled Living Foundation, an organisation that provides information on a range of equipment, can also advise you on available options.
Help from your pharmacist
Your pharmacist is well placed to help you in your community when you need them. It’s useful to go to the same pharmacist each time so they get to know you and your condition. If you have trouble taking your medication, your pharmacist can arrange an assessment to see how they can help. For example, they can offer large-print labels, non-‘click top’ bottles or a medication reminder chart.
They may also be able to put your medication into a blister pack. This means that each tablet has its own compartment linked to the correct time of day to remind you of your dose and when to take it.
Managing Parkinson's medication while in hospital
Make sure that hospital staff understand you have Parkinson’s and that you need your medication on time when you’re admitted to their ward. Getting your medication on time will mean your symptoms are well controlled and that you are likely to experience fewer complications from being in hospital.
Some hospitals will allow you to look after your own medication, so that you can take it yourself outside of the usual drugs round. Our Get It On Time resources can help you to educate and remind staff about the importance of getting medication on time in hospital.
People with Parkinson’s can have symptoms that aren’t connected to movement problems, known as non-motor symptoms. These include anxiety, pain and constipation.
These types of symptoms may be treated with the same drugs used by everyone with that health issue, rather than Parkinson’s-specific drugs. For example, you may be prescribed Movicol for constipation.
Parkinson’s and the drugs used to treat it can interact with the drugs used for other conditions. This means that a particular drug can become weaker or stronger. Your specialist or pharmacist can advise you on this. Always ask them before buying any over the counter medication.
Drugs to avoid in Parkinson's
Some drugs can bring on Parkinson’s-like symptoms or react badly with Parkinson’s drugs and should be avoided unless they’re recommended by a specialist.
These are some (but not all) of the drugs to avoid in Parkinson’s:
- chlorpromazine (Largactil)
- fluphenazine (Modecate)
- trifluoperazine (Stelazine)
- flupentixol (Fluanxol/Depixol)
- haloperidol (Serenace/Haldol)
- metoclopramide (Maxalon)
- prochlorperazine (Stemetil)
Herbal or complementary treatments may also affect your Parkinson’s drugs. For example, St John’s Wort is not recommended for people with Parkinson’s. It is made up of many elements which can interact with your Parkinson’s medication and cause side effects. So always check with your specialist, Parkinson’s nurse or pharmacist before taking alternative medicines.
Many decongestants and cold remedies can stop your Parkinson’s medication working properly. This is especially important to remember if you are taking selegiline, rasagiline and safinamide. They can also increase the risk of side effects. Always check with your pharmacist before taking cold remedies.
Parkinson’s medication can cause nausea and vomiting. Doctors will usually prescribe domperidone (Motilium) to prevent and treat this side effect.
Domperidone can cause heart rhythm problems (arrhythmia). If you are prescribed this medication, your specialist, Parkinson’s nurse or pharmacist should talk to you about how to recognise signs of irregular heart rhythms. A test of your pulse or another examination is often routinely performed to check for irregular heart rhythms before you are prescribed domperidone or ondansetron (see below).
Other anti-sickness drugs that are generally considered useful include cyclizine (Valoid) and 5-HT3 receptor antagonists like ondansetron.
Managing Parkinson's drugs: tips and experiences
This video contains tips and experiences from 5 people with Parkinson's about how they manage their medication.
Everyone's Parkinson's is different so remember that for specific medical advice about your treatment regime you should speak to your specialist or Parkinson's nurse.
Watch the video to get tips and experiences.