Improper use of medications is very costly to our healthcare system. Untreated or poorly treated illnesses can cause severe complications and greatly affect the quality of life of a patient. This is why we increasingly hear about accurate adherence to treatment these days. However, proper treatment requires a patient and his treating team to develop and establish a viable treatment plan. The patient is a key member of the treating team. A successful treatment partly rests in the patient’s hands, because ultimately, he or she decides to take the prescribed medications, or not. How can patients take their rightful place on this team? By asking pertinent questions, a patient is better equipped to understand the repercussions his or her actions will have on their health.
In fact, many patients stop taking their medications much earlier than they should. This action can be fatal when the medication is prescribed for the treatment of heart disease and diabetes. For example, a study of 1,500 patients hospitalized for heart attacks demonstrated that one out of eight patients stopped taking all their medications less than one month after being sent home. Only two thirds of patients were still taking the three medications prescribed during their hospitalization one month after leaving the hospital. Hence, people who stop taking their medications prematurely after a heart attack, have three times higher risks of dying within the year than patients who stick to their treatment. Patients who stopped filling their prescriptions were most likely to be older, less educated and single. Another example was a study of 11,500 patients with diabetes, demonstrating that those who did not take their prescribed medications regularly have greater rates of hospitalization and death than those who did.
When a physician prescribes a new medication, it is essential to be well informed so you can play a more active role in your treatment. It is important to know the name of the medication, prescribed posology, how it acts and how long you will need to take it. It is also important to ask if there are certain foods or activities that should be avoided when taking this medication. Asking what the most frequent adverse effects (side effects) are and what you should do when they occur, is also strongly suggested. In many cases, side effects diminish with time, and you need to know! You should also know what to do if you forget to take your medication.
Giving your physician and pharmacist feedback is also really important. For example, you alone know how well you tolerate the medication, if the treatment is difficult to integrate into your schedule, if you are comfortable with the diagnosis or if the medication is too expensive for your budget. If you do not share these concerns with your treating team, they will be missing vital information required to optimize your treatment. Most importantly, you will not reap the full benefits of your therapy.
Your pharmacist not only specializes in medications, he or she is also easily accessible! If you have any questions about medications or experience side effects, talk it over with your pharmacist. He or she will be able to tell you if particular reactions are normal, suggest tips to help diminish them or, if necessary, recommend you consult your physician. If you wish, your pharmacist can also give you informative and practical written documentation on your medications. Everything to help you take good care of your health!