Family physician, author, blogger, speaker, physician leader.

Prescriptions Are Not Just For Sick People

Most people are not fans of medications.

I don’t blame them. I’m not a big fan of medications either. Ask my wife. As a doctor, I know anti-inflammatories will help for my occasionally persistent neck pains, but I won’t take them. When I get ill, develop fever, muscle aches, and chills related to a viral illness, I don’t take medications such as Tylenol even though they can help my symptoms. Terrible, isn’t it?

I’m just like you. Doctors really are the worst patients.

Yet would you really refuse taking an antibiotic for pneumonia? Would you choose to walk away from options like chemotherapy for a life-threatening cancer?

It is easier to convince someone to start medication when he feels sick. It can be more challenging to begin or maintain treatment when he feels perfectly well. He feels healthy. He has no symptoms—no crushing chest pain or suffocating shortness of breath. There is no excruciating abdominal pain, perpetual nausea, relentless vomiting, or endless diarrhea.

If you had any of these symptoms occur, you might ask for something. I probably would, too!

Taking medications when you are physically ill makes sense. It is a little harder when you have no symptoms and the consequence of not taking medication won’t appear until years later. People with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, aside from the blood pressure readings and lab values, typically feel fine. Yet preventing premature and avoidable heart attacks, strokes, and complications of diabetes requires a focus on the numbers of blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. Unless a doctor puts these numbers into a context— “these readings are too high, too low (which rarely happens), and just right”—for most of us these numbers are meaningless, much like our credit score. We know they are important, but we don’t understand exactly what they mean. The danger isn’t readily apparent.

Until something happens.

Will this be you?

Chapter includes insightful commentary on the following:

Medications: Are We Being Overtreated? Undertreated?

Partner with Your Doctor

The Truth about Free Samples

Brand Medications and Advertising

Saving Money on Prescription Medications

Learn more at The Thrifty Patient.

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