Staying on your transplant medications

Despite the important role medications play in helping to keep people healthy, studies show that not all transplant recipients take their medications as prescribed. This is a scary fact because stopping — even skipping a single dose — without guidance from your doctor is very dangerous.

General tips

Even years after transplant surgery, missing medication doses, changing the level of medication in your body, failing to keep scheduled medical appointments, and not completing regular lab tests can put you at risk for organ rejection and organ loss.

As always, stay on track with your treatment plan and discuss any concerns you may have with your transplant team. Remember, by taking your medications consistently and following up with your physician routinely, you are assuming the most important job after your transplant.

Common issues

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Forgetting to take your medication
What to do
  • Use a treatment diary or medication tracker.
  • Write down important information about each medication (for example, when to take, what dose, with or without food, etc.).
  • Make taking your medications a part of your daily routine (for example, take them after you shower).
  • Use an alarm that will remind you to take your medications at the same time each day.
Importance of checking your medication
What to do

Immunosuppressant medications come in various forms, both brand and generic prescription drugs.

In many states, pharmacists are allowed to substitute a generic version without alerting you or your doctor if your doctor has not specified that that the brand-name drug is required.

Whether you take a generic or branded treatment, check your prescription before you leave the pharmacy to determine if your doctor has made any changes in your dosage or the way that you take your medications. If you have any questions, discuss with your pharmacist or doctor. It's important that you take the same anti-rejection medication every time, unless otherwise directed by your doctor.

Difficulty refilling your medication
What to do
  • Use pharmacy services such as automatic refills and medication delivery.
  • Mark the date on your calendar for when you need to pick up your prescription refills.
Managing medication cost
What to do

Talk to your transplant team about insurance assistance and medication financial support programs.

Managing side effects
What to do
  • If you are experiencing bothersome side effects, talk to your doctor about ways to manage them — don't stop your treatment.
  • Keep contact numbers of your transplant team with you — keep a wallet card with their numbers or program the numbers into your cell phone.
  • Work with your transplant team to develop a nutrition and exercise program that can help you feel healthier and stronger.
Getting to your appointments
What to do
  • Keep your appointment card in your wallet as a reminder.
  • Write your appointments on your calendar so you see them often.
  • If your cell phone has a reminder feature, set a reminder for your appointment day and time.
  • If you cannot drive, talk to friends or family when appointments are made to see if someone can provide a ride.

If applicable, check public transportation schedules for convenient times to make appointments.

Traveling tips

  • Purchase a two-time-zone watch with an alarm feature. To make sure you take your medications when you're supposed to, set one zone to the time back home, and the other to the time zone you are in (or traveling to). Use the alarm feature to remind you when it's time to take your medication.
  • Talk to your doctor for tips regarding adjusting your medication time when traveling abroad for a long period of time.
  • Keep your medications in your carry-on (never place your medications in your checked baggage, in case your luggage is lost).
  • Find the location of local pharmacies before you travel.