06/08/2016 12:40 EDT | Updated 02/23/2018 08:28 EST

The Dangers Of Not Following Your Doctors' Prescription

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A pharmacist collects medications for prescriptions at a pharmacy in London, U.K., on Monday, Dec. 14, 2015. European pharmaceuticals stocks in 2015 have outperformed the Stoxx 600 Index by 1.2 percentage points in U.S. dollar terms. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

You've been prescribed a new medication. You go to the pharmacy to pick it up, your pharmacist advises you how to properly take the medication, along with any other necessary information, and off you go. This seems straightforward, but you'd be surprised how many patients I see that aren't taking their medication correctly, and in some cases they aren't taking it at all.

Studies show that this is a common occurrence. In fact, 50 per cent of Canadians with chronic conditions don't take their medications as directed. And a recent Canadian study showed that 1 in 3 prescriptions go unfilled.

With day-to-day demands, it's not surprising many of us forget to take a pill or put off refilling a prescription by a week or two. In other cases people stop taking their medication because they think it has done its job or is causing unpleasant side effects. I see this in my practice often, it's incredibly common but people often don't realize that these decisions could, in some cases, lead to serious complications.

For example, the condition could worsen or it could lead to hospitalization. This isn't a scare tactic, it's the reality. According to the BC Medical Journal non-adherence causes 69% of medication-related hospitalizations.

That's why understanding how and when to take your medication is important, and this is where your pharmacist can help. Pharmacists do a lot more than just fill your prescription. We can help assess if your medication is effective, and if you are experiencing any issues or unpleasant side effects we can recommend a change in your therapy, in conjunction with your physician.

Some other services I offer my patients to help keep them on track with their medication include:

  • Medication Reviews: This is a one-on-one consultation to ensure all the medications you take, including over the counter medications, are being used safely and effectively.

  • Patient Follow-Up Phone Calls: This includes new-prescription call-backs, where I follow up with patients after being prescribed a new medication to ensure it's working properly, and to address any potential concerns. We also provide refill reminders. For chronic medication prescriptions, which you take for longer periods of time, we can give you a call at home to remind you to refill the prescription before it runs out. This helps ensure there are no unintended gaps in your therapy.

  • Compliance Packs: If appropriate, we can package your medications in easy-to-use weekly blister packs. This is particularly helpful for those on multiple treatments because it helps to ensure you are taking the right medication, at the right time.

If you think you may not be taking your medication correctly, talk to your local pharmacist. There's a lot we can do to keep you on track and healthy!

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