Doctor’s orders: Are you following them?

Doctor’s orders: Are you following them?

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by Lisa Larkin, MD, FACP, NCMP, IF

There are so many steps we’re told to take to try to prevent illness and live a healthy lifestyle: Eat right. Exercise. Get plenty of sleep. Reduce alcohol. Even though data has provided us plenty of recommendations to improve our health, it can be difficult to always comply. And while we all know we should do these things, when we eat a cheeseburger, or sleep through our workout, we shrug it off and promise to make up for it later.

But compliance – or following orders – when it comes to medication, is not to be taken lightly. In fact, non-compliance, in some cases, can result in severe and dangerous complications. Recent studies show that more than 50% of prescription medications are not taken as directed. And poor compliance results in greater hospitalizations and nursing home admissions. That’s why it’s critically important to address any issues upfront with your physician that might keep you from taking your medication as prescribed.

Issue #1. “It’s too expensive,” or “my insurance doesn’t cover it.”

Start by making sure your provider knows your prescription situation (i.e., do you have prescription benefits? With what insurance provider? Are you self-pay? etc.) Many providers are knowledgeable about what drugs are covered by what plans – at least for commonly used drug categories. If one medication is not covered by your plan, perhaps the physician can offer an alternative in the same class that is covered. Additionally, it’s worth doing your homework and calling local pharmacies to see what their cash price is. Prices vary from pharmacy to pharmacy, and some pharmacies offer discount programs for patients that can help reduce the cost even more. Some providers also are able to dispense commonly prescribed drugs from their office at greatly reduced prices.

Issue #2. “It made me feel sick,” (or dizzy, sleepy, anxious, insert-other-uncomfortable-feelings-here.)

Call your doctor immediately. If a medication makes you feel so uncomfortable that you stop taking it, then it obviously can’t do you any good. The medication was prescribed for a reason; check with your provider to see if there are other medications or other options that can help treat the problem without causing you more discomfort.

Issue #3: “I can’t remember to take it, so I just stopped.”

Just like issues 1 and 2, there is a reason the provider prescribed medication, so it’s important to take it as directed. Depending on how frequently you should take your medication, try tying it to another habit that you already do. For example, if you know you should take your medication twice a day, morning and evening, then start to associate it with brushing your teeth first thing in the morning and last thing before bed.

No matter the reason, if you find yourself not complying with doctor’s orders – especially when it comes to prescription medication – the first step is communication. Take the time to share your concerns with your provider, ask questions, and do your research to make certain you set yourself up for success. Together, you and your provider can create a treatment plan that makes the most sense for you.