Announcer: Recent studies show that nearly 2/3 of all visits to the doctor's office end with a prescription for medication. There is approximately $75 billion spent annually on prescription medicine. All too often, however, we overlook the vital role medication plays in our lives. It's very important to understand the difference between prescription and over-the-counter remedies. Prescription medicine is prescribed by a doctor for a specific ailment, using his or her medical knowledge and expertise. Over-the-counter remedies can be purchased by any person, without the authorization of a medical professional.
Dr. Calvin Knowlton: In the last five to six years, dozens of prescription medications have switched to the non-prescription status so we have a lot of potent medications available for the general public that are very accessible and can be kind of dangerous.
Announcer: Many potent medications are frequently being misused. By not following instructions on how to take medicine safely, people can vastly lower the quality of their lives and in some extreme cases, put their lives at risk.
Dr. Calvin Knowlton: If we took a poll of people on antibiotics, for instance, in the United States, most of us, our culture, is that we take antibiotics for seven to 10 days, or we are supposed to. And my sense is that most of us would admit that typically we start feeling better and we kind of forget to finish it.
Jeff Alexander: The importance is to continue that medication for the full 10 days. They may say, "Why, if I'm feeling better, why do I have to continue taking it?" Well, antibiotics fight a bacterial infection. The three or four days when you're starting to feel better, the antibiotic is working in killing the bacteria, but it might not completely give what they call a "bactericidal effect." That means taking the bacteria completely out of the system. It might be just putting it to rest and in the next four days, if they stop taking it, the infection will come back twice as bad.
Woman: Alright, that's for high blood pressure.
Woman: I take a half a tablet a day.
Doctor: Alright, one half tablet every day.
Announcer: When a doctor gives you a prescription, be sure to ask the following six questions -- What is the name of the medicine? What is the medicine supposed to do? How and when do I take it and for how long? What foods, drinks, other medicines or activities should I avoid while taking this medicine? What are the possible side effects and what do I do if they occur? And, is there any written information available about the medicine? There are many reasons patients don't take their medication properly, ranging from simple forgetfulness to more complex, psychological issues.
Dr. Calvin Knowlton: Some of the reasons that people seem not to take medication in an agreed-upon fashion are the complexity of the regimen is number one. When I'm on four medications and I'm taking one of them four times a day and one of them three times a day and one of them twice a day and one of them with food and the other one standing on my head, you know, it really gets to be difficult.
Announcer: Some conditions by their very nature present challenges when taking medication.
Dr. Calvin Knowlton: The illnesses that are most affected by when folks choose to alter how they're taking the medication are the illnesses that we can't feel, so people with high blood pressure -- we really can't feel that, and so you're feeling pretty good, you perhaps even feel worse when you take the medicine so you chose to alter how you're taking it.
Joan Cominskey: There were a lot of reminders we've learned over the years of how to take our medication. One of the simplest ones is to have a drug diary and on the diary with the numbers, "today is the second of January." It's easy to remember -- write down the time you take your medicine and as you take your medicine, cross it out -- put a big "X" through it. Just use that for drugs -- don't use it for going to the laundry or going to the movies or picking up your granddaughter. Just have a simple drug -- like a calendar, and use it. There are some home aids you can use -- there's the old egg crate, those containers they give you. I like the plastic ones because you can really see through them. You can put your medications for the week in them and keep them on your kitchen table, wherever it's useful for you to keep. I find they sell over-the-counter aids -- little plastic containers with the days of the week written on them and you just open them up and you've got your pills for the whole seven days of the week.
Announcer: Regardless of age or economic status, taking medication can be as integral a part of our daily routine as brushing our teeth or eating breakfast. By communicating with our health care providers and by accepting a greater responsibility in our own health care, we can learn to take our medicines safely.