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Timely Prescriptions

Chronotherapy is a term you may never have heard before, but more doctors are using it to better treat their patients.

Dr. Mallika Marshall from WBZ-TV explained on The Saturday Early Show that research has found some drugs work better when taken at a certain time of the day. With chronotherapy, doctors try to synchronize the medicine taken with the patient's body clock.

The time for taking medicine depends on the medication used, says Marshall. Some drugs really do work best in the morning, evening or with meals. But, she says, doctors often tell their patients to take their prescriptions at these times for the sake convenience. It may be hard for people to remember to take their prescription in mid-afternoon, in the middle of the workday or when they are busy with their children.

Marshall says the concept of chronotherapy is not new, but there haven't been many American studies on it. The practice is more accepted in Europe. There, many cancer clinics use the body's rhythms to determine the best time to give patients chemotherapy. They have found that in many cases the patients do much better when they are treated this way. European research shows when chronotherapy is followed, patients can better tolerate higher doses of the medications given to them, and they have fewer side effects.

Marshall listed some medical conditions and explained when medications may be most effective for them. But, she warns, speak to your doctor before changing your schedule.

Rheumatoid Arthritis
The best time to take pain relievers such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs is in the early evening, says Marshall. This allows the drugs to work through the night and still be effective in the early morning, when people typically feel the most pain.

Asthma is usually worse in the early mornings, so many people find they get the best relief when they take their medicine in the afternoon, according to Marshall. Certain hormones are at very low levels at night, so you want to have the drugs in your system to prevent the early morning attack.

Cold and Flu
Marshall says cold and flu symptoms are typically worse at night and in the morning. So you should take your medication at night before going to bed so that it has a chance to kick-in and ease your symptoms.

Heartburn typically strikes at night, when the stomach produces more acid. So, Marshall says, you may find that taking your medication before dinner will ease your pain.