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Taking Medicines as Prescribed - Overcoming Barriers to Taking Your Medicines

People don't take medicines properly for many reasons. If you're having problems taking your medicines as prescribed, it may help to think about why you're having trouble. When your reasons are clear, you can find ways to deal with the problems. This may make it easier to take your medicines as your doctor wants you to.

Here are some common concerns about taking medicines, along with some ideas for dealing with them.

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Concerns

"Medicines cause side effects that bother me."

"The medicine makes me feel worse."

"I think the medicine is making my health problem worse."

What you can do

  • If side effects bother you, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. Your doctor may be able to prescribe another medicine or suggest ways to reduce side effects. For example, if an upset stomach is a problem, ask if taking the medicine with food will help.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist about medicine interactions. One medicine you are taking may change what another medicine does. This can cause worse side effects or make a problem worse.
  • Ask your doctor if there are medicines you should not take. This includes supplements and herbal products.

For more information, see the topic Dealing With Medicine Side Effects and Interactions.

Concerns

"Medicine costs too much."

"I don't have insurance."

What you can do

  • Talk to your doctor or pharmacist. Is there a lower-cost medicine you can take? Can you use a generic medicine? Does your health plan offer lower-priced options? He or she may have other ideas that could save you money, such as buying in bulk or splitting pills.
  • Shop around. The cost of a medicine can vary from one drugstore to another. You can also look into mail order and using the Internet.
  • Call social services or religious groups for possible help, or get in touch with Medicaid, a government program that may be able to help you with medicine and treatment.
  • Some drug companies offer help. Search the Internet for the drug or company name and "patient assistance program." If you're not sure about your medicine's name or who makes it, ask your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Make sure you are taking medicines that are covered by your health plan, if possible.
  • Make lifestyle changes to improve your health. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables and less fat and getting more exercise may help your health problem. This could mean that you need less medicine. Less medicine means lower costs.
  • Don't use less of your medicine, such as taking half a dose or using it every other day. It's very important to take the medicine as your doctor tells you.
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