BY Dr. Sanjiva Wijesinha

I have learned over many years of practice as a doctor that patients recover from their illnesses not always because of the medicines they take but what they do with what doctors prescribe for them.

While this statement might at first glance sound like letting down my profession, you will surely agree after you’ve read and digested this article that my assertion makes sense.

You may consult the most knowledgeable and experienced physician you know but if you don’t take the medicine you’re prescribed or don’t take it as prescribed, you can’t expect to recover.

For instance, you are advised to take an antibiotic four times a day because once consumed, it remains in the body for only about six to eight hours. But you decide to take it once or twice a day and only when you remember to do so or your spouse reminds you to take it. In such circumstances, you can’t expect the antibiotic to work effectively.

Similarly, if you have high blood pressure, your doctor would have weighed the pros and cons of the medication that he or she decides to prescribe. These include any side effects it may have for you, whether it interacts with any other medication you’re taking and so on. Once you’ve been advised to take the tablets that are most suitable for you so that your blood pressure can be normalised, it’s up to you to faithfully follow the instructions on dosage and times.

Taking your tablets on four days of the week only (and forgetting to take them on the other three days) won’t benefit you because it simply causes your blood pressure to fluctuate.

The best example of failing to follow instructions is the case of a woman who was advised to diligently take a tablet every day over a long period of time to achieve a particular effect. But she forgot to take the oral contraceptive pill regularly and due to skipping a dose every now and then, she was left vulnerable to pregnancy at a time that she didn’t want to conceive.

Sometimes patients take a few doses of the prescribed medication but find themselves developing unpleasant symptoms. At times, these symptoms are a side effect of the medicine but at other times, they’re incidental and can’t be attributed to such a cause.

In such circumstances, it is best to visit the doctor once again and discuss the new symptoms rather than stop taking the medicine altogether!

Patients often need to be shown how to use inhalers that are prescribed for conditions like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. Many patients complain that the medication prescribed is ‘not working’ to control their breathlessness.

When asked by the doctor to demonstrate how they use their inhalers, it becomes apparent that they’re not conforming to the instructions for use. This results in the requisite dose of medication not entering the airway. Merely showing them how to use the inhaler properly and changing their inhaling technique is often all that’s needed to ensure that the medication acts with greater efficacy.

What you are prescribed is up to your doctor. Whether you use what you’re prescribed efficaciously is entirely up to you!