Taking medication while fasting

Considerations for taking medications while fasting

April 6, 2023

Changes to routine can affect how medications work. Fasting is one major change to routine that requires consultation with a healthcare team, including a pharmacist, to ensure a patient minimizes their health risk. People may fast for various reasons such as medical procedures, health reasons or religious rituals. Fasting is a part of many religions, but it is top of mind right now as Muslims all around the world are currently celebrating Ramadan.

During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn until dusk as a way to observe the holy month. 

Because Ramadan is celebrated according to the lunar calendar, the timing of the fast will vary based on the year. This year, Ramadan extends from the evening of March 22 until the evening of April 21. During this time, those observing may be fasting up to 18 hours depending on how the location affects the amount of daylight. For example, those in far north countries like Iceland, will observe up to an 18 hour fast this year. In the Toronto area, the fast is between 13-15 hours per day for 2023.

As with all health advice, there is no “one size fits all” and a pharmacist’s skill is in being able to present options and counsel patients as to what may suit their needs. Taking into account a person’s lifestyle, religious beliefs, and overall preferences are all important to consider.   

There are a variety of options pharmacists can present for a healthy fast, including Ramadan celebration. These may include: 

  • Ensuring hydration requirements are being met during non-fasting times
  • Counseling on how altered mealtime will affect when certain medications can be taken (those that must be taken with food versus on an empty stomach)
  • Using a longer acting medication that can be taken before fasting to last all day
  • Changing the dose of a medication so it can be taken fewer times during the day. Compounding can be an effective technique for tailoring dosages.
  • Options for non-oral forms (e.g., injections, suppositories) if possible and permitted
  • Encouraging an open dialogue with a patient’s spiritual or religious leader to determine which options work best for observance. In many instances where fasting would be harmful to a person’s health, they would be exempt from the fast or even obliged not to participate. 

No matter what a person’s reasons for fasting, Pace Pharmacy welcomes questions on how it can affect your medication schedule and how we can help you accommodate.   

Pace Pharmacy