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Guest column, Maria Angel: A spoonful of knowledge helps the medicine go down
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Dr. Maria Angel

Why is it so important to take my medication as directed? 

If you’ve ever seen a doctor, you may have been told on more than one occasion, “remember to take your medication as directed,” or “don’t forget to finish your prescription, even if you start feeling better.” But, did you ever wonder why it’s so important for you to do so? Allow me to explain! 

Depending on your age and health risk factors, medications are great because they help reduce your chance of getting hospitalized and may even help avoid putting a financial burden on you and your family. 

Some medications help to reduce your chance of experiencing long-term complications like a heart attack, stroke or worsening diabetes. The better we can work together to help you take your medications as prescribed, the better quality of life you can have now and in the long run — and who doesn’t want that! 

Did you know that 125,000 deaths in America per year are related to non-adherence, or not taking medications as prescribed? 

That is a scary number, but it’s the reality of something that could be avoided. Approximately three out of four patients will not take their medications as the doctor writes. When your medication isn’t taken properly, it doesn’t work properly, so it can lead to increases in hospitalizations and time off work (creating a financial burden on patients and their families), treatment failures and can even lead to death. 

Now, let’s get to the heart of the matter about why folks sometimes don’t take their medications as directed.  

Well, I feel so much better after just a couple of doses

Just because you feel better does not mean that you should stop taking you medication. Feeling better might be a sign that your medication is doing its job, since some conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes are controlled by medication. Remember, even though your blood pressure numbers are in the normal range, it does not mean your high blood pressure is cured — it simply means that it is being well controlled by medication. 

I have a hard time remembering what medications to take and when

We have all been there! Luckily, there are services that can send you a text message or call you to send you a reminder. You can even use your smart phone and set an alarm to remind yourself, or search for apps that help with medication reminders. Another tip — if you have Alexa, Google or Siri, use this handy technology to help remind you as well.

Another great idea is to stay organized. One of the most practical ways to achieve this is to use weekly pill boxes that you place near something that you use daily. Letting your doctor know you need help and being honest, will allow you to work together to come up with the best solution. 

What if I can’t afford my medication?

Your doctor has many resources to help. Pharmacies offer discounts, certain generic medications could be used, Goodrx coupons, and coupons from the manufactures of certain medications can decrease cost. My main point here is to talk with your doctor to help find an alternative that you can afford or other cost-saving options.

What should I do to improve my medication adherence?

Think about what is preventing you from taking your medicine as prescribed and put some of these suggestions into action.

Are you taking too much medicine or too little? Remember that more medicine is not always better. If your doctor writes for a certain amount per day, follow their instructions. 

Also remember to check the expiration dates on certain medications such as antibiotics. When medications expire, they can be less effective or even can be harmful. The most important note here — have open discussion with your doctor. We’re a team and we’re here to help!  

Dr. Maria Angel is a part of the family medicine resident program at Northeast Georgia Health System. Columns publish monthly from residents in the program. 

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