With the beginning of Ramadan a week away, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is reminding patients taking daily medication and planning to fast this Holy Month, to speak with their physician or pharmacists before making any changes to their medication regime.

According to Dr Moza Al Hail, HMC Executive Director of Pharmacy, some patients need only a simple adjustment to their medication schedule while others require a more complex solution. Patients with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, heart and kidney diseases, as well as conditions like epilepsy, require daily medication to effectively manage their condition and prevent complications.

For many patients, we can make a simple adjustment so they can take their medication between the evening meal of Iftar (sunset) and the morning meal of Suhoor (dawn). For medications taken multiple times during the day, recommended strategies include choosing long-acting formulations or changing dosing regimens to once or twice daily.’

Dr Al Hail said that many medications prescribed for various conditions are available as immediate-release and sustained-release formulations. This means that these medications can be effective in the body for longer periods of time. She also noted that many religious scholars agree that not all drug formulations are prohibited from use during fasting.

We work with each patient to find the best solution for their specific situation. Most medicines come in multiple forms, with a number of oral medications also available as injections, patches, suppositories, pessaries, and inhalers.’

She cautioned that no matter how straightforward an adjustment may seem, patients must consult their physician or pharmacist before making changes. She said that unsupervised changes can render a medicine useless, and more significantly, can cause serious health complications.

Each year, we encounter a number of patients who make changes to their medication regimes or even discontinue use without consulting their doctor. Every patient is different and will require a tailored treatment plan. Patients should not rely on information provided by their family and friends.’

Dr Al Hail also noted that there are exceptions made for those who cannot safely fast, including the elderly and individuals who are chronically ill. She said that in addition to providing advice about medication modifications, part of the pharmacist’s role is working with physicians to educate patients about when they need to break their fast. She added that while many patients with diabetes and other health conditions can safely fast, fasting can increase the risk of complications.

Last year the Pharmacy Department organised a medication awareness campaign for patients highlighting medication management during Ramadan. The campaign focused on educating patients about the proper use of prescribed medications. A similar campaign is being planned this year.

HMC operates a drug information centre with pharmacists available to answer questions about prescribed medications eight hours a day. The centre will be extended to 24-hours a day in the coming months. Patients who need information about their prescriptions and medications can call the information centre at 4026 0747.

For updates and more information about HMC services during Ramadan, visit their website at hamad.qa