Disclaimer: the following information is not meant to replace consultation with your physician or pharmacist. You can also find more information about your medication by reading the patient information leaflet. The mention of any brand is not meant to mention superiority over others.
While doing my patient care rounds, I met a patient living with diabetes hospitalized for mismanaged diabetes, a situation which could have been avoided if he took his medication faithfully.
He was like (smiling actually), ‘Doc, I know why I am here oh, it’s because I do not take my meds.’ Why don’t you take your meds? I asked and he just kept smiling; It’s his caregivers that were giving many different reasons why he doesn’t take his meds.
1 in 2 people are said to not be taking their meds. Unfortunately, this is not without consequences. But before we blame the patients for not taking their meds, we need to know that medication adherence (definition) is not the sole responsibility of the patient, healthcare providers play an important role as well.
Before you can help people take their meds, you need to understand why they are not taking it in the first place.
Many patients may not open up as to the exact reason they are not taking their meds.
I once have someone living with me who when asked if she regularly took her meds, she said yes. She kept getting worse. Just for us to discover sometime later, the blister of medicines lacking just one tablet. When confronted as to why she didn’t take her meds, we could not get any answer.
Here are some of the common reasons patients do not take their medications.
- Lack of symptoms
- Side effects
- Too many medications
- Duration of treatment
- Difficulty following regimen
- Depression or lack of social support
Let’s face it healthcare is expensive and medicines are not cheap. Often times, a patient is prescribed meds, sent out to buy and when told the cost of meds, go and never come back.
There are many ways you can do to reduce the cost of your medications. Healthcare providers should also consider the financial status of the patient when prescribing medications.
It seems easy to take your medicines right? Wrong! This is one of the top reasons why people do not take their meds. It is something you have to incorporate in your (busy) schedule.
Something you didn’t have to do before. Here are some tips to remember to take your medicines
3. Lack of symptoms
My dear friend living with diabetes at the beginning of my story falls in this category, like many others. Most people stop taking their meds once they feel the condition is under control and they no longer feel sick. Here is why you need to keep taking your medicines even when you feel better.
4. Side effects
Most medications (if not all) have undesirable side effects that affect people differently. You may have heard about or previously experienced a side effect from a medication that makes your reluctant to take the medications.
Some meds may even make you feel worse than the actual illness and you feel you are better off without it. Learning about your medication, its side effects and how to managing them will help you be more faithful with your meds.
5. Too many medicines (polypharmacy)
This is particularly common with chronic illnesses. If you are discouraged from too many medicines, work with your pharmacist or physician on how to reduce the number of meds you are taking. Here are more tips on how to reduce the number of meds you take.
6. Duration of treatment
It’s much easier to take medicines for 2-3 days but when you have to start taking for 2 weeks, a month, a lifetime, it becomes more tedious and discouraging and one tends to give up along the way.
Fear of swallowing, fear of needles, fear of dependency, side effects and more are all things that can cripple you into not taking your medicines. More so, with social media, testimonials from friends and neighbors, could add to those fears.
Make sure to let your healthcare provider know about how you feel.
Working in the HIV unit, I discovered this (alongside discouragement and side effects) was one of the primary reasons people didn’t take their meds.
Unfortunately, it is still a concern in our setting and so the patients may not come and refill their meds or not take because they are afraid of been asked what meds they are taking. Do not let stigma stand in the way of getting better
Not fully understanding your condition, what they medicine is for, how long it will take to feel better could and even how to take the medicines.
Here are questions to ask your healthcare provider about your treatment plan.
10. Difficulty following regimen
Some medicines have complex instructions e.g. take with food, without food, at night, before 6am etc. Others put a ban on certain other items like alcohol, drugs of abuse, herbs, etc and so it becomes difficult for the patient to take meds knowing he may have to forgo those other pleasures.
Often times it is also because one has difficulties administering the medicine e.g. insulin injections. Here are tips on how to understand drug instructions and reading drug labels
Sometimes patients get doubtful of the true motives of the doctors for prescribing the medicines and so do not take.
Others have a mistrust in ‘whiteman’ medicine and are told to go natural/herbal and so do not take the meds the doctor prescribed.
12. Depression or lack of social support
People living with mental illness will have a hard time following their treatment regimen. Caregivers are encouraged to give support as needed.
My main personal reasons are fear of swallowing and side effects. I can hear you screaming like the others that ‘a whole pharmacist? You are also afraid of taking meds?’ Yes, I do get afraid but my motivation to get better outweighs those fears and I push through the treatment.
If I can, you too can. In summary, have open and sincere conversations with your healthcare provider about your possible constraints so that together, you can find a way to take your meds.
Hope you found this article rich enough to like, comment and share with a friend. Are there any reasons I might have missed out on? Drop in the comment section.
About the author
Dr. Ekwoge Hilda is a trained pharmacist from Cameroon and Co-founder of HILPharma. When she is not busy creating content, she slings pills to pay the bills.