The holidays are a time when people forget to take meds or call in a refill because their normal routine is interrupted by parties, guests, travel etc. However, I’ve had a very recent reminder of what happens when you don’t take meds as prescribed.
The situation was not unusual. In order to save money, the person was taking their medication once every three days and not daily as prescribed. Thinking the medication wasn’t working, the medical provider ordered a lot more tests, which ultimately resulted in higher medical costs. However, the patient paid the highest price, as symptoms were not controlled effectively and became progressively worse over a six-month period.
People “mess” with their medications by doing the following:
• Not taking them because they: forget, have side effects, can afford them, feel better, or don’t have symptoms
• Taking them for a reason other than there intended purpose.
• Sharing them with a friend or family member.
Some simple solutions for taking medications as prescribed:
• Use a “friend with a pen” at medical appointments. Have them write down what the provider says about the medication, how to take it, possible side effects. The research shows that patients have a much better visit when they have someone with them. Read more about the importance of a health advocate.
• Ask the provider about the cost of the medication being prescribed. Be clear if you don’t think you can afford it. Ask for samples, as well as generic alternatives. The latter are often a lower priced option. Ask if the company has some type of program to help those who have difficulties paying for it. Check out the following sites for additional resources:
- Prescription Assistance Program
- Free Medicine Program
- Needy Meds
- Rx Assist
Tricare Senior Pharmacy For uniformed services beneficiaries 65 years of age or older.
• Understand the how and when to take the medication-e.g.when is the best time to take it; should it be taken on an empty stomach or with food; are there certain medications, supplements or food that shouldn’t be taken while on the medication; what happens if you miss a dose.
• Some drugs aren’t easy to take, such as interferon for hepatitis. Pharmaceutical companies will often set up programs to help patients with adherence. Inquire if such a program is available for a medication that is being prescribed.
• Ask for a clear explanation of why the drug is being prescribed and what the consequences are if you don’t take it.
• Discuss possible side effects.
• Talk to the pharmacist about any questions you might have. They can often provide helpful tips about taking the meds, such as whether a tablet can be broken in half; where to store it (medication cabinets in bathrooms are often not a good location because of humidity)
• Use the same pharmacy if possible and take advantage of automatic refill prescription programs.
• Use reminder devices such as a pill caddy, which organizes medications in a variety of ways-daily, weekly and by time of day. There are a lot of varieties out there so shop around for one that you think will work for you.
For more information on this topic, go to Medications Made Easier