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To Take or Not to Take

We are sick. We go to a doctor and are given a script for medications to take to make us better. But almost one-third of us never take that script to a pharmacy, and over 50% of us end up not taking our medication as prescribed.

But why does this happen? Is it because most of us believe we know better than our doctor?

Mistrust is one of the top reasons for medication nonadherence, but other, more genuine explanations include cost of the medication, side effects, knowing or reading about people who have had a bad response, or just plain forgetting to take them.

Doctors who take the time at the point of prescribing to ask their patient “What would make it worthwhile for you to take this medication in the next month?” may be able to pre-empt any nonadherence issues and allow their patient to open up about any fears, values or social pressures. Physicians could then use that information to modify treatment decisions or simplify medication regimens to ensure the best outcome for their patient.

If you are the patient, the only way you will get the best results from your medication is to take it exactly as instructed by your doctor. And give your medicines a chance to do their job. If for some reason you are not able to do this, then you should ring your doctor and explain why you can’t, for example, because of side effects or lack of a perceived benefit. The worst thing you can do is pretend that you are taking your medication as prescribed, because then your doctor does not have a true picture of what is actually happening and may unnecessarily escalate the dose of your medicine or schedule you for further investigations. Both of which may result in potential harm for you and increased costs overall.

So, if you are prescribed medications, take them as directed, or be honest and come clean with your doctor. Because getting on top of your condition requires a team effort.

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