The High Cost Of Not Taking Your Prescriptions
As many as 30% of new prescriptions are never filled, and medication isn’t taken by patients as prescribed, about half of the time. The problem is so common and so widespread that it’s considered by many doctors to be a leading cause in why patients fail to improve. In fact, experts estimate that up to 10% of hospital admissions, doctor visits, diagnostic tests, and other types of treatments could be avoided if patients took their medications as directed.
Failure to adhere to your medication routine can have costly consequences —making chronic conditions get worse. Failure to take medications as directed is blamed for causing 125,000 deaths due to cardiovascular disease (like heart disease and stroke) every year. Stopping antibiotics too soon, like immediately after a fever is gone, can lead to repeated flare-ups of infections and the problem of drug-resistant bacteria.
The reasons why people don’t take their medications as directed are varied and can include not being able to afford the prescription in the first place. But forgetfulness is the second most common reason people fail to take their meds as prescribed. Here are some things you can try that could help:
- Create a routine and stick to it. — By the time older Americans hit 65, most of us are taking 5 to 6 prescriptions a day. Complicating matters, your health or the medications you are taking can make forgetfulness worse. Take your meds at the same time every day. Setting up your pills in daily pill dispensing containers can help (if you remember which day it is and to check the box in the first place). If you do use a pill container, choose the same day of the week to refill the container. You may want to try digital timer caps for your pill bottles —ask at your pharmacy or look for them on Amazon.com. Try setting up reminders on your smart phone. Keep a pill calendar checklist near your pill boxes and check off the list when you take your pills.
- Review the instructions — Each medication comes with its own set of instructions. Review these carefully the first time you fill a prescription and then on a regular basis (at least once every year) thereafter. Find out for example, whether you need to take the drug on an empty stomach, or a full one. Are there restrictions, such as drinking 8 ounces of water after taking the pill or avoiding alcohol? Some medications have oddball rules, like avoiding sunlight. For example, Warfarin (Coumadin), a common blood-thinner, can be affected by the amount of vitamin K in the diet. Eating green vegetables in the cabbage family like broccoli, which are high in Vitamin K, can produce Vitamin K. Eating a generous helping of greens before your next Coumadin blood test could throw off your results.
- Ask your doctor about side effects. — One of the most common side effects of many drugs is forgetfulness, which makes remembering to take your drugs all that much harder. Sometimes the side effects or drug interactions can be as bad or worse than your illness (such as getting severe diarrhea from antibiotics, or depression when your blood pressure medication is mixed with your evening martini.) When your doctor prescribes a new drug ask if there are any common side effects or adverse reaction and for tips on how to manage them.
If you have problems sticking to your drug regimen, don’t try to hide if from your doctor — discuss it! This is especially true if you know you’ve forgotten to take a medication prior to having diagnostic tests or having blood work done. Let your doctor know. It might be worth rescheduling the test in order to get the most accurate results.