Jul. 01, 2011

You and Your Doctor: Why Do Medications Seem to Stop Working?

It can be quite a challenge to treat a disease like lupus, with its many symptoms that come and go, and can change over time. Your doctors will use all the available information and research findings to decide what medications are most likely to control your symptoms. Imagine, then, their concern when those medications no longer seems to be effective!

Has your body has become so used to the medications that they have stopped working? Have you have developed new symptoms that the medications can’t help? Does the dosage needs to be changed?

Or is it simply that…You aren’t taking your medications?!

The truth is, one-third to one-half of all patients do not take medication as prescribed; worse, up to one-quarter never fill prescriptions at all. The result? More than $100 billion in health costs annually because those individuals often get sicker.

The extent to which people take medications as prescribed by a health care provider is known as “adherence,” and these facts about medication non-adherence may surprise you:

  • Before they even leave their doctor's office, 10 percent of patients decide NOT to fill a prescription because the doctor has not explained how the drug will help them.
  • Of those who decide to fill the prescription, 50 percent DO NOT take the medications correctly because they cannot understand the instructions.
  • Of patients on medications for chronic illness, 30 percent-85 percent decide NOT TO REFILL their prescriptions because they don't know how to tell if the drug is helping them—or they think they are developing a side effect and don't know how to manage it.
  • Patients usually do not tell their doctors they are not taking prescribed medications, because they are trying to please them.
  • Non-adherence to medication use can result in an additional $100 billion in annual health care costs and $50 billion in indirect productivity losses nationwide.
  • Studies have shown that the direct and indirect costs are twice as high to treat the complications of medication non-adherence as the initial cost to purchase all the prescription drugs in the U.S.—meaning hundreds of billions of dollars could be saved annually if patients received the information and tools they need to manage their prescription drugs safely and wisely.

Bottom line: Don’t make your lupus worse by ignoring your doctor’s instructions—take your medications as prescribed. And if there is some reason you aren’t taking them, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. Help them to help you!

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