You Don't Take Your Medicine? I Can't Believe It!

by Sheldon S. Zinberg, M.D.

Come on, guys. Why the heck do some of us go to the doctor and get a prescription if you’re not going to take it? What’s the matter with some of us? Anyway, that’s what a lot of people are thinking about us older folks because of a recent study in the American Journal of Medicine. This study was made available online July 14, 2012, and it suggested that about half of us (even with heart disease) don’t take our medications or get them refilled. What in the world are those folks thinking? This is really serious!  It’s estimated that this accounts for almost 130,000 deaths each year. Not taking our medications can have catastrophic results; not to mention the fact that much of the health care costs are spent taking care of us during these catastrophes…especially during the last 48 hours of our lives.

Even more disturbing, the study evaluated compliance in taking medications intended for lifetime use, such as drugs to control blood pressure, cholesterol-lowering medications, and aspirin therapy. These are medications used to prevent events like strokes, heart attacks and heart failure.

So why do some us behave irresponsibly? Many reasons have been suggested: Some of us are afraid of the side effects that might occur, some of us can’t read the label, some can’t open the bottle and some have difficulty getting to the pharmacy for a refill. In the study cited above, whether or not the cost of the medication was completely covered by insurance didn’t matter much. However, in an earlier study done at the University of Massachusetts, cost was a factor in some older folks with chronic diseases and mood disorders.

So what’s the take away?? Help avoid catastrophes!! If you know anybody who is not taking their medications, try to help them…talk to them. Clearly, if they think they’re having a side effect from a certain medication, they should call the doctor immediately to discuss it. Aside from that, most of the other issues can be resolved. Let’s encourage our friends to take medications the way their doctor prescribes them. If they have trouble reading the label or opening the jar, they can ask the pharmacist to give them a special label and a different kind of bottle. This is an epidemic…let’s all help in stopping it.

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