It’s a worldwide problem: many people do not take their medicines as they should.
This affects their health, and non-compliance is responsible for many emergency admissions every year.
The reasons why people don’t stick to the prescribed instructions are multiple. The main ones include cost issues, fear of side effects or a lack of comprehension. Psychosocial stress, cultural issues and ceasing medication when they feel better other contributing factors.
Besides these issues, there could be other everyday things that affect the degree to which your medication is working effectively. It must also be remembered that each person responds differently to medication. What works for one person will not necessarily work for someone else.
Here are the most common problems:
Foods that affect absorption, metabolism and distribution of medication
These can either make the medication less effective, or intensify its effects. Grapefruit, coffee, alcohol, milk and foods high in vitamin K, such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, parsley and spinach.
Taking the medication at the wrong time
Our bodies are set to work on a 24-hour light-dark cycle. We function differently at different times of the day and night. For most medications to be effective, they need to reach a certain level in your bloodstream. If you take them at different times every day, or skip doses, these levels will vary. They will either be too low or too high. Certain medications can make you feel drowsy and therefore should only be taken at night. Others, to be taken in the morning, might keep you awake.
There are some medications that affect the way other medications work. These could be over-the-counter medicines, or even vitamins or supplements. Allergy and heartburn medicines, for example, can affect the absorption of other medications.
Speak to your doctor about everything you are taking – even the ones for which you don’t need a prescription.
If medication is not kept in a cool, dry place (and that does not describe the bathroom), the moisture or the heat or the light could reduce the effectiveness of the active ingredients in your medicines.
Age / weight considerations
Age and body size can affect the working of medication. Stick to the instructions on the leaflets, or ask your doctor or pharmacist if you are unsure. Be scrupulous, especially so in the case of children. The elderly may also have issues surrounding medicine absorption and this should be taken into consideration.
Not finishing prescriptions
This is most often a problem when people take antibiotics. They stop taking the medicines when they feel better – but the bacteria might not have been eliminated entirely and could easily return for another round.
Other medical conditions
Any conditions that affect the working of the gastrointestinal system can reduce the absorption of medication. This includes short-term issues, such as diarrhoea, or long-term inflammatory bowel diseases.
By Susan Erasmus
2. National Health System – UK
3. Cleveland Clinic
4. National Institutes of Health
The Content on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.