Taking your prescription medication? | Dr. Petter

Are you taking your prescription medication as prescribed by your doctor? If not, why?

It is easy to forget to take a pill on occasion, especially if you are not in a routine. But, aside from this, the reasons can be concerning:

• Unable to fill the prescription because it was too expensive.

• Rationing the supply, taking it every other day, to make the pills last longer.

• Experiencing unpleasant side effects, so the medication was stopped.

• In disagreement with your doctor's plan of care, and do not believe the medication is needed.

• Decided to pursue alternatives, natural approaches and remedies.

Whatever the reason, a safe and effective solution needs to be found. It can be dangerous to abruptly stop a medication, unless directed by a doctor.

For example, stopping an antidepressant can cause unfavorable side effects, such as: irritability, tremor, headache, nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea. Abruptly stopping a blood pressure medication called beta blockers (i.e., Metoprolol, Atenolol) can cause rebound tachycardia (quick surge of pulse and blood pressure), potentially putting you at risk for a heart attack or stroke – the very conditions that you were trying to prevent with the medication.

Not taking an antibiotic as directed, and completely, can allow an infection to reemerge, potentially requiring hospitalization. The result: a prolonged illness, packaged with a very expensive medical bill.

If you have questions about your prescription medication(s), make an appointment to see your doctor. Talk honestly about your reasons for not taking the medication as prescribed. Do you need a cheaper generic alternative? Are you experiencing intolerable side effects and simply need the medication changed? Do you wish to pursue natural remedies and/or life style changes first?

Doctors are the health advisor, diagnosing, treating, formulating healthcare plans, and prescribing medication. Once you leave the office, putting the plan into action and taking any prescription medication as recommended is up to you.

No doubt, your longterm health is heavily influenced by your involvement, compliance and follow through. The choice is really yours.

Dr. Linda Petter of Auburn is a weekly feature on KOMO TV/News Radio in Seattle (1000 AM & 97.7 FM) every Saturday and Sunday 7:45 a.m. & 9:45 a.m. She trained at the Mayo Clinic and the University of Illinois, Carle Hospital. Dr. Petter is chief of the Department of Family Practice at St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way. She is a consumer healthcare advocate, and her books, "Healthcare on a Budget" and "Common Medical Sense", are available on Visit her website,, or call her office at 253-568-0841.

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