By Mike DuBose
Our last article focused on medication dangers. Here are some other important thoughts.
Save money: Consumer Reports determined “Many Americans, even with insurance, spend more than they should on medications ($1,300+ annually).” Studies show that families are experiencing skyrocketing inflation and some are reducing household expenses to pay for legal drugs. Conversely, many seniors, with limited income, are living dangerously by not taking all or part of their medications to cover essential bills.
Here are some cost-saving ideas. Ask medical providers to prescribe generics which have the same molecular structures as their brand-name counterparts and are often produced in the same factory! Many pharmaceutical companies offer great saving programs! Explore your drug’s official website to apply for electronic discount cards and have your pharmacist register RX, PCN, and BIN numbers into their systems. If available, try cheaper over-the-counter products that were once prescribed. Inquire with your pharmacist if they provide discounts or generic-drug-programs and are there benefits when paying with cash. Websites GoodRx, RxSaver, WebMDRx, and Singlecare compare different pharmacy prices. To reduce unnecessary trips and save time, request prescriptions for 90-day-supplies. Medicare (www.cms.gov) furnishes medication discounts for lower-income-families called “Extra Help” ($1,843 monthly individual income limits and $2,485 for couples).
Prepare for Travel: Plan ahead to ensure you have enough medicine for vacations and take your meds with you—not in checked luggage that could be lost or misplaced. Insurance companies generally allow 25-day renewals so you can build up some extras. Prior to leaving, double check your prescriptions which may have expired and need updates from doctors. If still active, and you’re running low, you can contact your insurance company to request “Vacation-Early-Refills.”
Organize medications: Place 30-day supplies into plastic reminder containers with week-day-labels (white containers for day-meds and nighttime blue/green). Pay careful attention when inserting them into slots since extra pills or an omission in one daily compartment could harm your health. (Avoid dropping pills on floors where pets or children could find them.) Use by expiration dates since effectiveness declines over time.
Take medicine as prescribed: If you ingest multiple pills daily, view them in your palm to ensure all are accounted for before swallowing. Some pharmaceuticals cause acid reflux and nausea if not flushed from the esophagus, so consume most meds with plenty of water and food. If you experience morning side effects, try after lunch since timing is important. Taking medications at night might cause insomnia so switching to morning hours may be helpful. Likewise, others that cause drowsiness during the day might be taken at night to help with sleep.
Be cautious with antibiotics: Overuse can make them less effective against bacteria by promoting growth of antibiotic-resistant infections. Excessive consumption over time can reduce or eliminate the body’s good bacteria, which helps digest food, produces vitamins, and protects from infections. Even when feeling better, take all your antibiotics.
Change lifestyles: It’s easier said than done, but practicing healthy habits is often the best life-strategy (reasonable weight, eat right, exercise, stop smoking, reduce stress, and drink alcohol or caffeine in moderation). Harvard Medical School documented that “exercise is good medicine, and even better, it’s free with few side effects. Physical activity can greatly reduce risks of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, breast and colon cancers, depression, and falls, while improving sleep, endurance, and mental health.” Brisk walking in malls or outdoors is an excellent source of exercise and socialization.
Avoid addiction: Mayo Clinic reports prescription abuse is growing, especially amongst seniors. Once individuals are innocently hooked, they often need greater amounts to achieve pain-relief or “euphoric effect.” As a result, the FDA notes that the heart could slow down so much that breathing stops completely, resulting in fatal overdoses. Since many families have legitimate medications, it’s easy for abusers to steal them. According to research, 70 % of children aged 12 years or older, who abused legal drugs, secured them from friends and/or family—often from medicine cabinets.
Don’t go cold turkey: While we typically receive detailed instructions on how to begin meds, we’re rarely told how to safely stop taking them. Most over-the-counter medicines can be taken as needed; however, others cause serious side effects if stopped abruptly and must be gradually reduced. According to Bottom-Line Health, “The specific tapering schedule will depend on many factors, including how long you’ve taken medications, dosage, age, and other drugs.” Sudden withdrawal can cause muscle pains, weight loss/gain, anxiety, insomnia, and gastrological shutdowns.
Use antidepressants safely: The CDC reports 20% of Americans suffer from mental-health challenges and 13% take antidepressants (20% amongst women aged 40-59 and one-in-four 60 years and older). Prescriptions aren’t cure-alls and some are recommended by doctors who aren’t trained to prescribe, monitor, and treat patients with psychotropic drugs. In fact, most research indicates that the best ways to treat mental health issues may incorporate a combination of: (1) medications administered by competent psychiatrists such as Josh Fowler, MD; (2) counseling and support groups; (3) stress-reduction, and (4) exercise. Prayer is essential for believers. While it’s important to employ medical professionals as treatment partners, if God created the universe, He can help you!
The bottom line: Consult with your doctors and inquire if any drugs, vitamins, and supplements could be reduced or eliminated. If so, seek medical advice on how to safely withdraw. In many cases, prescriptions can literally be lifesavers. However, there are also many risks, side effects, and financial burdens that are associated with use.
Visit our non-profit website www.mikedubose.com/medicationsfor a single version of all three published prescription articles.
The DuBose family’s purpose is to “Create Opportunities to Improve Lives.” Mike is a staff member with USC’s graduate school. In 1987, he founded his family of companies and eventually wrote the book “The Art of Building Great Businesses.” Visit his nonprofit website www.mikedubose.com for free access to his books and 100+ published articles, including business, travel, and personal topics, in addition to health research with Surb Guram, MD.