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July 6, 2018 | Pharmacy • Value-Based Care
Did you know $100 – $300 billion in avoidable healthcare costs are attributed to medication nonadherence? This is because nonadherence leads to worsening health outcomes, which means you’ll need to visit the doctor more. More utilization of services increases healthcare costs, and those get passed down to the patient.
Knowing what your medication is supposed to do and what condition it is meant to treat helps you better understand why it’s so important.
Taking your medication as directed is critical to your health and safety. Some medications may make you sleepy, so it’s best to take it at night. Other medications can cause an upset stomach if you take them without food. Before you leave your appointment, make sure you understand:
Proper medication storage helps ensure your medication is as safe and effective as possible. Heat, air, light and moisture can affect your medicine, so it’s important to follow your pharmacist’s recommendations. Some medicines—probiotics, for example—need to be refrigerated.
There are many reasons why your doctor might prescribe one medication over the other. Some medications may interact differently with other drugs or produce certain side effects. If your doctor prescribes a brand-name drug, ask if there are any generic alternatives. Brand-name medications are usually more expensive and may not be covered by your insurance. Your out-of-pocket costs for brand-name prescriptions can be more than double the cost of generic alternatives.
The timeframe in which your medication should start working varies for every drug. Talk to your doctor about how soon you can expect to feel a change and if there is anything you should pay attention to.
Some side effects are minor inconveniences, while others can be dangerous. Some are rare and some are common. For example, Warfarin, a medication frequently used to treat blood clots, can cause bleeding in the gums after your brushing your teeth. This a low-risk side effect; but Warfarin can also cause side effects that need immediate medical attention.
Ask your doctor what common side effects are and if there are any that would signal an emergency—and what to do if you experience dangerous side effects. If you are uncomfortable with the side effects your medication causes, DO NOT stop taking the medication without first consulting your doctor.
Talk to your doctor about all medications you take, including over-the-counter medications like pain relievers, antacids, laxatives, vitamins, dietary supplements, etc. Some prescription medications can negatively interact with other medications. Your pharmacist can also help you identify adverse drug interactions.
Sometimes a missed dose isn’t serious, but in other cases missing a dose can be dangerous. Missing a dose can also reduce the medication’s effectiveness. For example, missing a day of your birth control pills can increase the likelihood of pregnancy.
Each medication has different instructions for a missed dose. Make sure to go over these instructions with your doctor. If you find yourself forgetting to take your medication often, consider setting up reminders for yourself or use a calendar or pillbox system.
Many medication labels recommend avoiding alcohol to prevent side effects or complications, but you may need to avoid other things as well, such as physical exertion, driving or certain over-the-counter medications. Even some types of food can interfere with your medication.
If you ever have questions about your prescription medications, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.
“Adherence and Health Care Costs.” National Institutes of Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3934668/
“Definitions, variants, and causes of nonadherence with medication: a challenge for tailored interventions.” National Institutes of Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3711878/
“Taking Medicines: What to Ask Your Doctor.” MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000535.htm
“Medicines and You: A Guide for Older Adults.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/resourcesforyou/ucm163959.htm#know
“Storing Your Medications.” MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000534.htm
The Live Better Team
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.