Your Prescription: Staying the Course
Why you should keep taking your prescription medication-even if you feel like you’re back to perfect health.
Unlike a passing cold or occasional headache, chronic illness requires consistent and continuous medicine. Interrupting these drugs could create serious health concerns. Here are seven reasons why it’s important to stick with what the doctor orders.
Your Illness Has Silent Symptoms
Feeling well doesn’t necessarily mean being well. “High blood pressure and high cholesterol don’t have noticeable symptoms or make a person feel sick,” says Brenna De Angelis, a Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacist in Toronto, who cautions against skipping pills just because you aren’t experiencing any signs. “Even though a person may feel well from day-to-day without their medication, it’s very important to follow the prescription as directed in order to prevent worsening of the condition and decrease the risk of complications down the line.”
The Pills Work-But Only If You Keep Taking Them
People often stop taking their medications when their symptoms subside and they start to feel better. While this behaviour might work when you’re suffering from a stomach upset or sore throat, it’s not advisable when you have a chronic condition. “Some conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or gout that clear up while a patient takes their medication may flare up again if they stop taking it,” says De Angelis. If you’re thinking about stopping your medication, talk first with your pharmacist or doctor to confirm the best course of action for your condition.
Fewer Negative Outcomes
If you don’t follow your prescription, your illness can become worse and symptoms can drag on. “Former U.S. surgeon general C. Everett Koop said, ‘drugs don’t work in patients who don’t take them.’ Taking medications as prescribed helps to ensure that people achieve the health-related goals they’ve set with their doctor and health care team,” says De Angelis. “Not taking medications as prescribed has actually been shown to be the cause of approximately 30 to 50 per cent of treatment failures in the United States and the statistics in Canada would be very similar.”
Fewer ER Visits
“Statistics show that five to six per cent of all hospitalizations are linked to not taking medications as prescribed,” says De Angelis. “Medications help to control chronic conditions in order to keep them from progressing or getting worse as well as to prevent future health-related complications. And for some conditions these complications can be life threatening. For example, a heart attack or a stroke that would require a trip to emergency.”
Lower Medical Costs
Follow your doctor’s orders. Studies have shown that when patients take their medication as prescribed, there has been a noticeable decrease in overall health care costs. Skipping doses or not following instructions may lead to extra expense and illness for the patient. “If medications are not taken as prescribed and don’t work, it’s more likely that a person will need to take additional medications in order to control their condition,” says De Angelis.
Less Stress For Everyone
Following the doctor’s orders is good for you-and your friends and family. Not only does a lack of compliance boost their anxiety, it can also increase your chances of hospitalization. “Not taking medications as prescribed accounts for 10 to 25 per cent of hospital and nursing home admissions-situations which may place additional emotional and financial stress on you and your loved ones,” says De Angelis.