Follow Your Doctor’s Orders for Better Health

November 18, 2013


Whether you or your children are taking a short-term antibiotic or daily medication, it is important that you do not alter your treatment plan against your physician’s recommendations. 

Prescription guidelines exist to keep your body running at its optimal state both during and after an illness. Skipping doses of medication or stopping medication altogether can jeopardize your health and make recovery difficult. In some instances, it can cause serious — even deadly — consequences.

For instance, the most important way to control your asthma is by the carefully planned use of treatments agreed upon by your doctor or asthma nurse. Medications that prevent asthma symptoms from triggering need to be taken on a daily basis because their protection builds up over time. By stopping your asthma medication or skipping doses, you increase the likelihood of having a serious, life-threatening attack.

If you are taking an antibiotic, never stop taking the prescribed medication when you begin to feel better. You must take all of the medication as prescribed. To make sure you are taking your medication correctly, the Food and Drug Administration recommends that you ask your doctor or pharmacist the following questions:

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  • Why am I using this medicine?
  • How long should I use it?
  • What should I do if I have problems or side effects?
  • Should I take it on an empty stomach, or with food?
  • Is it safe to drink alcohol with it?
  • How do I store it?
  • Is there a preferred time of day to take the medication?
  • What should I do if I forget to take it?

Millions of people do not take their medication correctly, so do not assume you know the answers to these questions. Doing so could put your health and life at risk.

If you’re bothered by side effects from a certain medication, talk to your doctor about your concerns. Your doctor may be able to change your medication or adjust your dosage.

If medication cost is a problem, your physician may be able to substitute a less expensive, generic drug or suggest other ways to save on prescriptions costs. Generic drugs can cost 30 to 80 percent less than brand-name drugs, so it may be worth asking if there is one available to take.

If your schedule causes you to miss doses, try daily dosing containers or set reminders on your computer or phone. Various apps exist for smartphone users that allow you to set medication reminders, and even connect you to your local pharmacy to refill prescriptions.

It is important to take medication as prescribed. Keep healthy by staying on track.

William Gillespie, M.D., is Chief Medical Officer of EmblemHealth.

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