Why Patients Stop Taking Life-Saving Medicine

Published on 03 September 2014

Statins won’t make you feel better in a few days like an antibiotic, but they do work.  Statins are very effective at lowering cholesterol to help reduce the risk of heart disease. The threat of experiencing a side effect like muscle pain,  fatigue or an upset stomach will prevent many patients from  filling  prescriptions.  It won’t surprise you then to know that like most medicine, there is a big drop-off in the number of patients taking their statin as prescribed after three months.

The reasons that patients stop taking their medication after three months have been studied from every conceivable angle. I know because I’ve read pages and pages of research centered on it. Health care providers presume that there is a level of complacency that has set in after one or two medication refills. 

Here’s how you can take an active part in managing your medication.

  1. Set a daily reminder on your phone.
  2. Integrate taking your medicine in to your daily routine. If there are no pets or children in the house, put the medication next to your night stand, toothbrush, or something you use every night.
  3. Bring up side effects right away with a health care provider like a pharmacist, physician, or nurse.
  4. Ask about any questions concerning your medication with your pharmacist or another member of your health care team.

About the author: Matt Pitlick, Pharm.D., BCPS is an assistant professor of pharmacy practice at St. Louis College of Pharmacy. He also is a practicing pharmacist in St. Louis focused on helping patients manage their medications for chronic conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

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