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The Dangers of Skipping Doses to Save Money

June 4, 2021

online pharmacy safety

Medication nonadherence has been a problem for quite some time but is escalating as the cost of healthcare in the United States continues to rise. Everything about healthcare is rising — health insurance premiums, out-of-pocket costs, and the cost of medication — resulting in many Americans looking for cost-cutting solutions.

A common way that people try to save money on their healthcare expenses is by cutting back on their prescription medications. This might mean cutting pills in half, skipping doses, or choosing to forego medication altogether.

This practice affects people across the country in all demographics, regardless of age and race. However, it’s likely to be utilized by people in specific categories, particularly people who are suffering from multiple chronic conditions that require constant management (oftentimes senior citizens), and people who are already struggling to make ends meet.

What many people may not realize is that medication nonadherence can be extremely costly in the long run. While it may feel inconsequential at first, its effects can add up rather quickly, and before you know it, you have far bigger problems on your hands.

Here are the dangers of medication nonadherence, why it doesn't actually save you money in the long run, and how you can find your medication through an international and Canadian online pharmacy at a cheaper price.

What is Medication Adherence?

Simply put, medication adherence is a behavioral pattern in which patients take their medications consistent with a prescriber and/or manufacturer’s recommendations.

This means following all instructions, such as taking the medication at a specific time of day, at specified intervals, with or without food, or abstaining from particular foods or alcohol when taking the medication.

What is Medication Nonadherence?

Whenever a patient doesn’t take their medication, doesn’t take the correct amount of medication, or skips a dose, this is considered to be medication nonadherence.

Negative Effects Easy to Ignore

In the short-term, medication nonadherence may not affect your health in a way that is noticeable — you don’t see your cholesterol getting higher or your blood pressure increasing. You may not notice your blood sugar being out of whack.

Unless there is some sort of obvious sign that points to your medical condition getting worse, it’s easy enough to explain away whatever you’re experiencing. You could be unusually stressed out, or not sleeping well, not adhering to your diet, etc.

If people don’t see negative effects in the short-term, they may not think nonadherence is a big deal. They may think it’s fine for them to only take their medication once per day instead of two. It’s only when they start to see the negative effects that they realize they’ve made a mistake — and sometimes it’s too late to reverse the damage.

The Role of Education

While some experts claim that medication nonadherence is “100% preventable,” this is a massive overgeneralization. There are many barriers to people taking their medication as prescribed — cost, of course, but also education as to how to take their medication properly.

Education is a major hurdle to helping people realize the consequences of not taking their medication properly — and that does not mean formal education or college degrees. This type of education is simply the information patients need regarding their health condition, how the medication works, and what could happen if they stop taking it.

This is the responsibility of the physician and pharmacist to provide access to the information, but the impetus still falls on the patient to actually read and understand the information.

There’s also a difference between intentional and unintentional medication nonadherence — not that the end result will be any different. People might think they’re taking their medication correctly when they really aren’t.

For example, some medications negatively interact with grapefruit. Therefore, the manufacturer’s instructions provided with those medications specifically state that grapefruit should be avoided when taking it.

Eating grapefruit while taking a medication that recommends against doing so — whether intentionally or unintentionally — is a form of medication nonadherence.

Dosage and Medication Adherence

The reason it’s so important for people to take their medication as prescribed is because that is the way the medication has been proven to be effective. This will have been tested over and over and over during drug trials, including control groups, blind testing, and any number of measures to ensure that the data was as pure as possible.

If a medication is meant to be taken twice per day, it means that the medication metabolizes out of the body quickly (probably 12-14 hours). Therefore, another dose must be administered in order to keep enough of the medication in the system so it can be effective.

Other types of medication are intended to be built up over a period of time. For example, most antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications begin with a half-dose each day for a few days, and then a full dose begins about a week into treatment.

The same will go for coming off those medications. You’ll step your dosage down with the recommendation of your doctor so your brain has time to adjust.

We know this is important because of all those drug trials.

So when patients start messing with their dosage (taking too much or too little), they are literally toying with their health.

The Cost of Medication Nonadherence

The cost of medication nonadherence is understandably difficult to calculate. However, researchers over the years have managed to come up with estimates based on average costs and negative outcomes, among other things.

According to the most recent data (which is, admittedly, getting old at this point), medication nonadherence costs anywhere from $100 billion and $289 billion annually. And this is only counting the United States.

This is obviously a wide range with a significant margin of error. But when you consider what an exorbitant amount of money $100 billion is, even just the thought of the low end of the spectrum is disturbing enough to leave an impression.

This data suggests some pretty staggering statistics. Among other things, medication nonadherence is believed to cause at least:

  • 125,000 deaths per year
  • 10% of hospitalization (the most expensive form of healthcare)
  • Increased morbidity and mortality rates

Contributing Factors to the Cost

There are many possible factors that contribute to the estimates, including age, access to healthcare, income level, location within the United States (rural or urban, or suburban), and education level.

But it’s probably safe to say that a significant portion of this cost is a matter of how much more money it costs to treat a disease that has progressed than it is to treat a disease at the outset.

The longer you allow a disease to progress without getting the medical attention necessary to treat it, the more difficult it is to treat, which translates into more money. This is a well-documented fact at this point.

We know that treating stage one cancer is not only easier and more effective than treating stage four cancer, but it’s less expensive. At stage one, cancer is often localized and can be treated with surgery and/or radiation.

But as the stages progress and the cancer spreads, the possibility of treating it effectively decreases and the amount of money it costs to do so.

If someone who believed they had many years left in their lives or has children to raise is suddenly diagnosed with late-stage cancer, they may want to fight it with everything possible, which could mean chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, and possibly experimental treatments.

Furthermore, some treatments may be available in some parts of the country and not others, which would require the patient to travel, stay in a hotel, see out-of-network doctors, and then return at a later date for follow up visits.

Cancer is just one example of how early intervention can not only save money, but lives. The same can be said for:

  • Diabetes - could possibly controlled with insulin and dietary changes early on, but requires multiple medications when it progresses
  • High cholesterol - can lead to heart disease, as well as heart attacks (therefore, hospitalization)
  • Various forms of heart disease (including heart failure) - often leads to hospitalization, and almost always expensive medication
  • High blood pressure - can lead to disability, heart attack, or stroke
  • Seizure disorders - some seizures are minor, some are not, but seizures can cause accidents, which can be traumatic at best and deadly at worst
  • Asthma - medication can help keep inflammation down in the bronchioles, but asthma can be very serious, causing approximately 3,168 deaths per year
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) - medication itself is frequently expensive, but as the disease progresses, a lung transplant may be the only option

This is by no means a comprehensive list of the possible negative outcomes of medication nonadherence, but it does give you an idea of how manageable conditions can escalate into deadly diseases.

An Uphill Battle

Unfortunately, it would appear as though we’re fighting an uphill battle here. Research shows that 31% of people don’t even fill their prescription in the first place.

There are multiple reasons for this choice, including simple refusal to take the medication, fear of side effects, denial that they need the medication, and of course cost. Researchers on the study said they could not measure the reasons, and therefore did not weigh in with their professional opinions.

However, they did come to the following conclusion: “Primary [medication] nonadherence is common and may be reduced by lower drug costs and copayments, as well as increased follow-up care with prescribing physicians for patients with chronic conditions.”

Adding to the frustration of the situation, this study was conducted in Quebec, Canada — an area in which everyone has access to healthcare and prescriptions should be far more affordable than what Americans are dealing with (even though prescription prices in Canada are higher than in many other countries with universal healthcare).

Reducing the Cost of Your Medication

Another study from the Annals of Internal Medicine came to a similar conclusion as the one described above: “Reduced out-of-pocket expenses, case management, and patient education with behavioral support all improved medication adherence for more than 1 condition.”

While we can’t help with the follow-up care aspect of medication nonadherence, we can certainly help with the cost reduction side.

At NorthWestPharmacy.com, we offer the medications you need, but at a fraction of the price. In fact, we guarantee that you won’t find your medication cheaper anywhere else — but if you do, we’ll beat it. (See our Lowest Price Guarantee for details.)

We sell medication across the spectrum, from generics to expensive brand name, treating almost any disease you can think of, including heart disease, asthma, COPD, erectile dysfunction, digestive health, and mental health.

Furthermore, we carry nonprescription medication like allergy medicine, antifungals, digestive aids, pain relief, fever reducers, vitamins, diabetes supplies, first aid supplies, and vitamins (plus many, many more).

We even sell pet medication, so you can use NorthWestPharmacy.com as a complete one-stop shop for your whole household’s pharmaceutical needs.

Getting Started with an International Online Pharmacy and Canadian Drugstore

Our primary concern is saving you money on your prescriptions, but our secondary concern is making sure you have the support you need when placing your order.

Finding a reliable online pharmacy and Canadian drugs store can be very stressful — almost as stressful as not being able to afford your medication in the first place.

At NorthWestPharmacy.com, we try to do everything we can to alleviate some of this burden. We do this by providing a wealth of information on our website, in addition to maintaining a call center full of knowledgeable, experienced representatives.

Our call center is open seven days a week and available to you for any and all questions. If this is your first time placing an order and you’re not great with computers, our call center might be a better option for you.

Perhaps you just prefer the phone as a method of communication — specifically, you might prefer speaking to a real human on the phone because it makes you feel more comfortable. And that works out just fine for us. We want to help you.

If you have questions or are ready to place your order, feel free to give us a call at 1-866-539-5330. If you need to reach us outside of business hours, you can always do so by emailing us. Either way, we look forward to hearing from you soon.

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