Taking Your Medicine: A Smart Choice for Staying Healthy
Medicines can be an important part of treatment for serious infections or chronic
conditions. They can help relieve pain and lift depression. They can also fight some
of the nation’s leading causes of death and disability.
Today’s medicines can help control many common chronic diseases and lower the complications
that go along with them. Medicines can play an important role in helping keep people
out of the hospital.
Why do so many people take their medicines incorrectly or not at all? According to
numerous researchers, more than 1 in 4 Americans do not take their medicines as prescribed.
There are a lot of different reasons for this. Often, people don't understand how
to take their medicine correctly or lose track of their medicine during the day. Some
stop taking medicine because they feel it is no longer needed. Others can’t afford
the expense of medicine, especially if it is not covered by their insurance. People
also stop taking their medicine because of unpleasant side effects.
Are there risks?
Taking medicines on time and correctly is very important. When you don’t take medicines as
prescribed, they may not work as well as they should. You may also have a greater
risk for side effects.
The effects of not taking some medicines aren’t always clear. People who don’t take
their blood pressure or cholesterol medicines may feel well, but their blood pressure
or cholesterol numbers may be rising. That can increase their risk for heart attack
Tips you can try
There’s a lot you can do to help your medicines work safely and effectively. Experts
suggest that you:
Gather information. Ask for brochures and pamphlets about your condition and medicine from your healthcare
provider’s office. Ask your healthcare provider to recommend reliable websites that
Make a list of your medicines. Include all medicines, vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies that you use. Share
this list with all your healthcare providers and your pharmacist. Keep it up-to-date.
This makes it easier for them to spot—and prevent dangerous drug interactions.
Don't rely on your memory. Buy a special pill case that’s divided into the days of the week. Then keep it somewhere
in plain sight, but safe from children. Newer boxes have built-in alarms and a recorded
voice to remind you. Another idea is to take your medicine at the same time every
day, perhaps when you brush your teeth or feed the dog. Set your watch or cell phone
alarm to go off when you need to take a dose. Even a note on the refrigerator may
help you remember.
Talk with your healthcare provider. Before you stop taking a medicine or start taking fewer doses to save money or simplify
your schedule, call your healthcare provider. Do this even if symptoms disappear or
you don't think the medicine is working. Suddenly stopping some medicines can be dangerous.
Ask about a simpler schedule. If you just can’t keep track of all your medicines and when to take them, ask your
healthcare provider for help. With some medicines, you may be able to switch to a
different dose that doesn’t need to be taken as often.
Explore more affordable choices. Medicines can take a big bite out of your budget, even if your health benefits include
coverage. But taking less medicine or skipping doses isn’t a safe way to save money.
Ask your healthcare provider about using a generic instead a brand-name medicine.
It will have the same active ingredients as its brand-name version, but may cost less.
Are you eligible to order your medicines at a discount? Check with your health plan.
Some pharmacies and drug companies offer discount cards or very low-cost generic medicines,
too. Sometimes, you may be able to buy a larger dose and split it to save money. For
instance, it may be cheaper to buy 200 mg tablets and break them in half if you only
need 100 mg. But ask your pharmacist because certain medicines are not safe to split
Throw away any medicines you are no longer taking. Keeping medicines around after they are no longer prescribed or have been changed
by your healthcare provider can lead to confusion. Ask your pharmacist how to safely
get rid of medicines you don’t need.
Taking your medicine as directed is just one part of your overall plan for staying