Reaching for the bottle of aspirin inside the medicine cabinet, something catches your eye—that little orange bottle with the accusing white label. Lonely pills stacked one on top of the other, never to fulfill their life’s purpose.
Not only did you waste your money and time waiting in line at the pharmacy filling a prescription you would never take, you may have actually caused harm to your body.
“The situations where it’s catastrophic to stop medication or never take it, is when the patient is prescribed something like blood thinners,” said Terry G. Rascoe, MD “The person could have clotting that could cause a heart attack or stroke.”
But despite the serious side effects, many people still don’t take doctor’s orders seriously.
A study conducted by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that 73 percent of the participants discontinued their antidepressant medications during the 14 day study period.
Dr. Rascoe said stopping mental health medication can be especially dangerous because the patient will go through withdrawals.
“They’ll be very anxious, their heart rate will increase,” he said. “It’s like stopping alcohol—there will be physical and psychological symptoms.”
Not following through with prescription regimens has become such an issue that doctors are left wondering why this happens and how they can help their patients get better.
The family medicine physician says there are several reasons why people don’t take doctor’s orders seriously.
“Maybe they thought the prescription wasn’t necessary, they didn’t think they’re symptoms were that bad, or there was a breakdown in communication between the patient and the doctor.”
But often times their decision to take the medication or even get the prescription filled comes when they see the price of what the doctor’s ordered.
“They expect a $4 or $5 prescription, but end up getting a $25, $50 or $100 prescription,” he said. “And it is way beyond what they anticipated.”
Because physicians know that many of their patients are just trying to make ends meet, they try to pick generic medications or formularies.
“The majority of medications have a generic available that is covered by most insurance companies,” Dr. Rascoe said. “It would be really helpful if the patient could come in with a printed list of the prescriptions their insurance company will pay for.”
The doctor said that the best way for the patient to trust their medical treatment plan is to have a partnership with their physician.
“Let the [doctor] know if you have questions or if you’re uneasy about a certain medication or side effect,” he said. “They can’t help you if they don’t know what you’re thinking.”
And if the problem lies in remembering to take your medication, Dr. Rascoe offers some tips to help jog your memory.
“Associate it with something you always do,” he said. “I used to tell people to strap their medication to their toothbrush, but now I tell people to strap it to their cell phone charger.”
You can also try making a paper chart that lists which medications need to be taken on which days or have a family member fill a pill box that is marked with the days of the week.
“We’re not the pill police. It is not feasible or desirable for us to be that,” Dr. Rascoe said. “Ask questions. If you feel uncomfortable doing that, then find a physician you do feel comfortable with.”