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Medication Dosing Schedules


Managing medication schedules for yourself or a loved one is an important task and can often feel overwhelming when it involves coordinating the dosing of multiple medications. This can get even more complicated when some medications are prescribed to take at set times while others come with instructions to take on an as-needed basis. Patients and caregivers have expressed the need for further clarification about why some medications would be taken at set times and others only when the patient feels the need or experiences symptoms. The purpose of this guide address some of the most frequently asked questions on the topic.



  • Intended to be dosed at a specific time of day, regardless of the presence of symptoms

  • In the hospice setting, scheduled medications prescribed for symptom management are often intended to provide around-the-clock prevention of symptoms

    • Example: Morphine SR 15mg orally every 12 hours

    • SR stands for sustained-release

    • Designed to slowly release the morphine into the bloodstream over 12 hours, intended to provide prolonged, “sustained” relief

As Needed (PRN)

  • Intended to be dosed when symptoms are present with opportunity to repeat dose as frequently as outlined by prescription

  • In the hospice setting, as-needed medications usually provide benefits within 15-20 minutes of dose, with benefits lasting often 1-4 hours depending on the medication and patient-specific features

    • Example: Morphine IR 15mg PO every 4 hours as needed for pain

    • IR stands for immediate-release

    • Designed to quickly be absorbed into the bloodstream to provide quick resolution of symptoms

  • SR and IR medication formulations can be taken together

To be continued...



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