The Dangerous Habit of Skipping Medications to Save Money
There are many challenges to finding the right medication for the right person. The medication has to well matched to the diagnosis, it has to be prescribed at the right dose, and it has to be processed effectively by the individual’s metabolism. On top of that, the medication has to be taken properly to work properly. If not, the entire equation falls apart. It can be a dangerous practice, and in the United States, nearly eight percent of people over the age of 18 do not take medications according to prescribed directions. For the majority of them, it’s an effort to save money.
The good news is that seniors when seniors want to save money with medications, they talk to their doctors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) only 4.4 percent of those over the age of 65 did not take their medication as prescribed to save money. However, they were more likely (17 percent) than other age groups (14.7 percent) to ask their doctors for a lower cost medication.
People most likely to not take medication as prescribed to save money
Insurance plays a big role in medication adherence for adults aged 18 to 64. When the CDC looked at who was more likely to not take medication as prescribed to save money they included:
- Uninsured adults: 14%
- Medicaid adults: 10.4%
- Private insurance: 6.1%
- The poorest adults—those with incomes below 139% of the federal poverty level—were the most likely to not take medication as prescribed to save money.
Given the sky-high costs of some medications, it’s easy to understand why some people will skip doses to make it last longer and avoid expensive refills. However, it is practice riddled with high risk. Altering medication plans can be dangerous to one’s health and impede the efficacy of the drug. The American Heart Association reports that poor medication adherence kills 125,000 Americans each year.
Examples of what the lack of medication adherence can do
- The Arthritis Foundation doesn’t mince words. It says that if you skip medications, “You will experience a worsening of pain and possibly progression of the disease.” There is a good reason for their straight talk. One study showed that among rheumatoid arthritis and Lupus patients, “only one in five patients took their drugs as prescribed at least 80 percent of the time”.
- The American Heart Association says for patients with cardiovascular disease, the repercussions of not taking medications properly can be “severe”. “For instance, not keeping blood pressure in check can lead to heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure.”
- The American College of Cardiology reported a study showing that patients who did not take not blood pressure medication properly had three to seven times the risk of suffering a stroke. They had the same high risk of suffering another stroke within the same year, as compared to patients who had taken their medications properly.
- Skipping antidepressants, or stopping them abruptly without working closely with a physician can be very dangerous as well. It can result in:
- “Brain zaps” that feel like electricity is running through it
- Mood changes that can be minor or pronounced
- Nausea, vomiting, changes in appetite
- Suicidal thoughts
- Withdrawal pain
Taking medications properly is essential. In fact, it is the only way your physician can tell if a prescribed medication is working properly. Lack of medication adherence confuses results and can make it more difficult for the physician to determine the proper treatment for the illness or disease.
What to do if medication adherence is an issue due to cost
If cost is an issue, there are some things you can do. Although it may be difficult, begin by being honest with your physician about your financial limitations and ask for help:
- Ask the office staff to check your insurance and tell you how much it will pay for the medication, and what you are responsible to pay
- Ask for a medication that costs less
- If it is a new prescription and there is a question as to whether it will address the illness or disease effectively, ask if you can fill half the prescription to begin with, and the other half when the physician determines it is working.
- Ask if the manufacturer of the drug offers financial assistance; many do
Medications can be essential to your good health. Discuss each medication carefully with your physician and decide which are absolutely essential to address your health conditions. Then adhere to the prescribed schedule so you can achieve the best outcome possible.
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