Home » Why your medications are (seemingly) not working and what to do

Why your medications are (seemingly) not working and what to do

Why your medicines are not working

One hot afternoon, an angry man stormed into the pharmacy asking to return the medication he had bought. Upon asking why he would want to do that, he got angrier. He opened the product and poured the content (a powder antibiotic) and said we sold him ‘flour’ (to say a medication with no effect).

He said his child had been hospitalized for a while and isn’t getting better so what we must have sold him is mere flour (placebo). Trying to reassure him or dig further was futile; he stormed out as quickly as he came in.

Maybe like him, you have found yourself in a situation where you think (or know) the medicines you are taking are not working. You may not react like this man but other bad attitudes could include:

  • Doubling your dose to ‘increase’ its effect
  • Stopping or switching the medication without the consent of your health care provider
  • Mixing with other medications (or herbal products) without the consent of your health care provider

I think before going to the ‘what to do’, we need to first establish why your medication is (seemingly) not working right? There are many possible reasons which I will be explaining but if you are in a rush, here is a brief summary.

  1. Give it time
  2. Wrong diagnosis
  3. Wrong treatment choice
  4. Wrong source
  5. Not taking the medication as directed
  6. Drug interactions
  7. Drug resistance
  8. Genetics
  9. Lifestyle

So now you have the gist, let’s dive in:

Medicines (well most) are not magic pills that once you take, you immediately start to feel better. You have to give time for the medication to work. Some take longer depending on the route of action, for example, injectable meds usually work faster than oral drugs. Skin medicines may even take months before you start to see its effect.

I once had a friend consult a dermatologist for deep acne issues. The specialist prescribed some medications, which she eventually bought. A few weeks later she showed me a product she saw on the internet promising her a quick fix and asked my thoughts about it. I asked her why she would even be interested in such. She said, it’s been 2 weeks later and she wasn’t seeing the effect of the medicines she was prescribed. Eventually she didn’t go through the treatment and still has the acne issues. Learn to give your medicines time to work.

You or your health care provider could have made a mistake in properly diagnosing what your condition is. It is important when consulting to be open about all the symptoms you are feeling. As they say in medicine, you find only what you look for. Especially here in Cameroon where certain symptoms like vomiting and fever are immediately attributed to malaria, some other illnesses could be overlooked.

This was the case of a young lady recently, after self-medicating for malaria, 1 week later, same symptoms appeared. The first thought again was she probably didn’t complete her malaria treatment and so it has ‘come back’. With further testing, she found out she rather had a urinary tract infection.

This is usually common with antibiotics. We use antibiotic medications to fight infections (mostly) caused by viruses (common cold, sore throat etc.) or use medicines that are no longer effective due to drug resistance.

When you buy medicines from the street or other doubtful sources like the internet, you expose yourself to the possibility of fake products. That is why you should always buy your medicines from credible sources like a registered pharmacy. They take the pain to deliver quality medications.

Read more: How to save money and time on medicines)

We are all guilty of this at some point, skipping on meds, doubling, taking at the wrong time or wrong way etc. Sometimes even the way you mixed the medication is problematic in the case of powder medications; you probably didn’t put the right amount of water (solvent) or didn’t shake well before each use.

Read drug labels and medication leaflets for the best way to take your medications. Ask your pharmacist when you don’t understand.

Some medications don’t mix well with others or the foods we eat. Always let your healthcare team know all the medications (including herbal and vitamins) you are currently taking. Also ask if there are any foods you should be avoiding when taking your medicines.

Sure we have heard this a lot especially when it comes to antibiotics, but other classes medicines are affected e.g. anti-malarial drugs. That is why we are called to use drugs responsibly.

When we say drug resistance, we mean the drug is no longer effective against that which it used to previously win the fight. Sometimes it could be because of other existing conditions in the body (suffering from other illnesses that would affect your drugs work)

Some medicines may work on some and not work on others because of how they have been built (DNA etc)

The big culprits are smoking, alcohol and other drugs, poor eating habits and excessive weight. They have an influence on how well your medicines work.

This list is non-exhaustive but now you pretty much have an idea as to why your medication probably isn’t working. So what’s next?

  • Express your concerns to your healthcare team (please you don’t have to storm in and out!)
  • Make sure you buy from the right source
  • Read drug labels to ensure you are taking medicines as prescribed or directed
  • Work on the lifestyle issues affecting your medicines

Hope this article helped. If it did, please like, comment, share so it reaches and helps even more people. For any questions, drop them in the comment section. Thanks.

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