Sticking to your medication schedule after a transplant

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Like most people who receive a transplant, you may feel well after your surgery and not have any symptoms to remind you to take your medications. This can make remembering to take medications regularly more difficult. If you have any problems remembering to take your medications, never be afraid to talk to your transplant team – they will understand and be able to help you.

Here is a list of what other kids have told us they do to help them remember their medications.

  • Try to link taking your pills to some other routine. For example, if you always feed the dog in the morning, keep a reminder with the dog food. Or if you take your pills at night, leave them with your toothbrush so you remember to take them before going to bed.
  • List your medications and the times you take them and post the list some place (such as your bedroom or on the kitchen fridge) where it will remind you to take your medications. Bring this list to each of your appointments as well. You might find it useful to fill in your own schedule to keep track of your medicines. Choose from vertical or horizontal template, which you can fill in and save to your computer.​
  • Get a weekly pill container (called a dosette) and put in all your pills at the beginning of the week. This way you will not need to spend time each day preparing your doses.
  • Set an alarm on your watch, cell phone or computer to help you remember to take your pills.
  • If you don’t want to carry your pill container (many are too big to fit in the pocket of jeans for instance), you can put your pills in a small container that you can wear around your neck or on your wrist. These containers must be secure so that they do not open by accident. Make sure you also carry a copy of your prescriptions to prove that you do not have illegal drugs hidden in your jewellery.
  • Be aware that any break in your routine may cause you to forget your pills. If you go away overnight, for example, put your pill container with your toothbrush or wrap the container in your pyjamas.
  • If you want to sleep in but must take certain medications at a specific time in the morning (such as tacrolimus or mycophenolate), put your pills beside your bed with a drink and set your alarm for the time your pills are due. Wake up, take your pills and go back to sleep. If you normally take these medications with food, leave a granola bar beside your bed and eat this with your pills before you go back to sleep.
  • When you go on a trip, pack your medications in your purse or carry-on luggage. Never pack them in your checked baggage, since it may go missing. Also, checked baggage is stored in the hold of the plane, which is too cold for medications. If you are crossing a border, keep your medications in their original packaging such as a prescription vial (instead of a dosette or pill organizer).
  • If you are in a rush to get to school in the mornings and sometimes miss taking your pills, have an extra set in your school bag so that you can still take them at school.
  • If your friends know that you have a transplant, get them to help you remember your medications. They care about you and want you to be healthy, so they are often good at reminding you.
  • Make sure you always have enough medications to last you through weekends, public holidays and vacations. Call your pharmacy for refills at least three days before you run out of medication.

Other medicine tips

  • Never stop taking your medications just because the bottle is empty. If you are not sure if you should continue a medication or if you are out of refills, call your transplant team for advice.
  • If you take tacrolimus, cyclosporine or sirolimus, remember not to have grapefruit, pomelos, tangelos or any fruit that is grown from grapefruit. Read the labels of mixed fruit juices carefully.
  • If you are prescribed medication that you have never had before by anyone other than your transplant team, always call the team to check that it does not interact with your transplant medication.

Keep taking your medications, even if you feel ok

Some teens have told us that they forgot to take their medication once or twice a month and were worried that their body would reject their organ by their next clinic appointment. Many were happy to discover that there were no unusual symptoms or immediate changes in their blood test results. They did not tell their transplant team that they had missed medications because, after all, nothing was wrong!

If you have skipped your dose once or twice but do not see any change in your condition, you might start thinking that you don’t really need your medicines anymore.

But if you skip your doses regularly, your body will start rejecting the organ, just very slowly. Sometimes teenagers have a pattern of missing medications over many months before the changes in their blood test results or biopsies show up. By then, it is often too late to treat the rejection.

A rejection like this will reduce the time that the transplanted organ will last. So if you find you are missing some medications on your schedule, talk to your transplant team – they will understand! They can help you with some ways to remember your medications so that your organ will last as long as possible.

Over-the-counter medications (OTCs)

OTCs are real medications, even if they don’t require a prescription. Some of them can interact with your other medications or have an effect on your transplanted organ.

If you are thinking of taking something not mentioned in this table of over-the-counter medications after a liver or kidney transplant, call your transplant team for advice.

Last updated: November 30th 2017