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4 Ways Skipping Your Medications Can Harm You

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By Frieda Wiley, PharmD, RPhDecember 11, 2018

As a pharmacist, I’ve heard plenty of reasons why patients skip their medications. It takes too much time out of their day, or they feel like they are taking too many medications, or their medication regimens are too hard to follow (one pill four times a day). Or, sometimes, people just flat out forget. Let’s be honest: taking medication isn’t fun. But passing on your pills can have consequences. Here are four examples:

Your condition may get worse. Sometimes, it might be tempting to skip your evening dose of that twice-daily blood pressure pill — especially when money is tight. While it’s true that you may not feel very differently by missing a pill or two, over time, those missed doses can add up. Uncontrolled blood pressure can lead to a stroke or heart attack–or even death. So, even though that blood pressure pill may have a higher copay than you’d like, it sure beats paying a hospital bill–or funeral expenses.

You may end up with another prescription. Let’s use the blood pressure pill example again. If you stop taking your blood pressure medication, your blood pressure will rise. If your doctor doesn’t know that you’re not taking your blood pressure medication as prescribed, they will think that your medication is not working as well as it should. This means that you might end up leaving your doctor’s office with a prescription for a higher dose — or a prescription for yet another blood pressure medication to take in addition to the other medications you’re already supposedly taking.

You may end up with other illnesses and conditions. Diabetes is a great example of this. Most people know that diabetes can cause kidney disease and blindness or that people sometimes lose limbs to the condition. While there are exceptions to every rule, not taking your medications makes your risk for these and other horrible complications skyrocket.

You’ll end up spending more money. These days, even some of the best insurance plans may still come with some out-of-pocket expenses, so passing on your pills could mean that you’ll have to cough up some more of your own dough for additional doctor’s visits, treatments, and medications.

Granted, there are some situations where it might be medically necessary for your to skip a few doses of your medication. For example, blood thinners, antidepressants, and other medications that increase the risk for bleeding during surgery are often held for a few days before going under the knife. Or, certain blood pressure medications might be given after chemotherapy because it could cause blood pressure to drop too low during treatment. But in general, cutting corners on you medications is not a good idea because each time you skip a pill, you’re taking a chance on your health. Just remember: While you can put a price on your medications, you can’t put a price on your health.

Frieda Wiley

Frieda Wiley, PharmD, BCGP, RPh is a board-certified, clinical pharmacist, contract medical writer, and consultant. She has nearly 100 publications to her credit, including Arthritis Today, US News & World Report, Everyday Health, MedPage Today, and Clinical Cardiology Advisor. To read more about Frieda, visit her website, or follow her on Twitter.

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