How to use medicines properly

by | Medicines, Videos

Dr Norman Swan, Physician and Journalist

Video transcript

A lot of people go away from their general practice surgery with a medicine, with a prescription. It’s really important to fill in that prescription. You’d be surprised how many people don’t bother to fill it in. And it’s really important. A lot of the medicines you get are actually life-saving. They may not feel life-saving at the time, like cholesterol-reducing medications, blood pressure-reducing medications, low-dose aspirin, all sorts of medications like that, medicines for your diabetes. Really important that you fill in the prescription, and you take it.

It sounds as if, why am I saying this? Well, why I’m saying this is that after a year of a prescription, you’d be surprised how many people are no longer taking their potentially life-saving medication.

What if you have side effects?

You’re taking it for a reason. If you don’t like the medication, or you’re getting side effects, talk to your general practitioner about that and explain why. There may well be alternatives, different dosage regimes, ’cause I’ll tell you what happens. You come back to the doctor, you haven’t been taking your medicine, and your blood pressure’s up, or your cholesterol’s up, and you’re embarrassed to say that you haven’t taken your medicine, but the doctor thinks the medicine isn’t working, and gives you a prescription for a new medicine, and keeps on trying to chase it when, in fact, the problem is you haven’t been taking it in the first place.

Ask about your medications

So the really important thing here is the safe use of medications. Antibiotics or any medication, when the doctors think you’re prescribing, talk to the doctor about it, ask why you’re getting it, ask what the side effects are, ask if it’s absolutely necessary, so you’re sure that it’s worth going out and actually filling the prescription and taking it. But on most occasions, it is.

A lot of people have chronic illness, and chronic illness, if you don’t look after it, goes down like that, inexorably. But if you take your medications, stay well, change your lifestyle, you can actually maintain your level of health really well. And you’ve still got your chronic illness, but it’s kept under control. These are the reasons why you need to take your medication.

But the important thing is to understand the drugs that you’re taking, what the side effects are, and be entirely open with your GP.