Information for the public

Help with making decisions

Help with making decisions

If you think you may want to stop or change some of your medicines, you need to have enough information to make a decision that is right for you. Your GP should talk with you about:

  • how much each medicine is likely to help you over time (for example, does it make you more or less likely to have another serious health problem such as a stroke?)

  • any side effects, such as if a medicine makes you constipated or unsteady on your feet, or makes you feel drowsy

  • what it might mean for you if you stop taking a medicine

  • whether there are other medicines you may prefer that have different risks or benefits.

Some medicines are taken to help with symptoms, such as pain, and you are the best judge of how well they are working. But some medicines are taken to lower your chances of problems happening in the future. For example, statins are used to help prevent you having a stroke or heart attack. Decisions about these 'preventive medicines' are often harder because it is more difficult to know how much they are helping you day to day.

Your GP can talk to you about the evidence for medicines you are regularly taking to help you understand the possible benefits and risks of taking them. For example, if you've been taking bisphosphonates for 3 years to lower your risk of breaking a bone, your GP should talk to you about whether or not you would like to stop them. They should explain there is no clear evidence that carrying on with them will protect you against breaking a bone any more than if you stopped.

If you stop a medicine and later feel that you need to take it again, you can discuss this with your GP at any time.

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