You are not feeling well. You make an appointment to see your primary care provider. As the nurse is asking you about your current symptoms and taking your blood pressure, they ask you “what medications are you currently taking?”.
Do you know the answer? Do you know the names, strengths, and how many times a day you take each medication? Do you know what they are for? All of this information is important to the healthcare we can provide you. Here is why it is important.
Simply put, not taking your medications as instructed could lead to your disease or illness getting worse, medication interactions and side effects, hospitalization, and even death. According to the FDA, medication is not taken as prescribed 50% of the time.
In addition, for patients prescribed medications for chronic diseases, the majority of patients stop their medications altogether after six months. A recent study estimated that in one year, incorrect use of medications resulted in more than 9 million hospital admissions and more than 18 million emergency room visits.
There are many reasons why people do not take their medications as prescribed.
1. Misunderstanding the instructions. Taking a medication twice a day is much different than taking 2 tablets once a day. The way medications act in our bodies vary and are prescribed at different dosing frequencies for a reason. For example, taking too many NSAIDs for pain or fever, such as ibuprofen, can lead to gastrointestinal bleeding or kidney failure. It is important to follow the label on the bottle.
2. Forgot. The majority of people over the age of 65 are on greater than 5 medications, according to the CDC. Many of these medications are taken at varying times throughout the day. It can be difficult to remember when to take what medications, or if you have already taken that one today. There are many ways to remember to take your medications: alarms on your phone, medication planners, and bubble packs from the pharmacy. If you would like help, just ask your pharmacist or our ACHS staff for guidance.
3. Side effects. All medications come with a laundry list of possible side effects. Many are unpleasant and can discourage people from continuing medications. While our bodies will adjust and get used to many side effects, there are times where the symptoms don’t go away. If you are experiencing a side effect from a medication, talk to the prescriber before discontinuing the medication on your own. There are many options to treat most conditions.
4. The medication doesn’t seem to be working. Many chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, are not something we can easily feel. Because of that, we can’t tell when the medication is working. In addition, some medications take days or several weeks to take full effect, as is the case with antidepressants. If you are concerned your medication is not working, talk to your doctor.
While it is important to take your medication as prescribed, it is also essential to know what medications you take and how you should be taking them. Most of us see more than one provider and several specialists. Before prescribing or stopping any medications, those providers need to know your medication list is accurate in order to prescribe you the safest, most effective option for you. The best person to know what you are taking is you!
Our medication safety pearls are:
- Do not stop taking your medications as prescribed without discussing with your health care provider.
- Always know what you are taking. Carry a list and keep it up to date as changes are made. Writing in pencil helps! At Adair County Health System, we have created a wallet sized laminated medication and health information card for you to record this information. Stop by our clinics or hospital to get yours today.
- Know your body! If you are feeling side effects from a medication or combination of your medications, talk to your health care provider.
- If you no longer take a medication, talk to us or your pharmacist about safe disposal. Get them out of your house so you or someone else doesn’t take the medication.
- Store your medications out of reach of pets and children.
Tamara Thorpe, PharmD, MBA
Pharmacy Manager of Adair County Health System
The information provided on the Adair County Health System’s Blog is not a substitute for professional medical advice and care. If you have specific needs, please see a professional health care provider.
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