We often hear about the incredible number of prescriptions doctors dole out every year. But Americans aren't buying it — literally. They often don't fill the prescriptions their doctors give. This is good and bad. Let me explain.
You'll often hear me complain about the side effects of various drugs. And I think many medications line the pockets of pharmaceutical companies far more effectively than they help patients (especially when the drugs just treat symptoms rather than curing the underlying disease). But some drugs do serve good medical purposes. When this is the case, it's not good for patients to avoid the prescription.
Of course, you might have tried a drug in the past and found that it didn't help you. Or you may have found that side effects outweighed the benefits. That's perfectly acceptable. But if you fall in one of those camps, there's something you need to do: talk to your doctor about the problem. According to a study recently published in Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, nearly one-third of patients prescribed a particular medication aren't taking it as directed. And their doctors often have no idea.
Researchers from the University of Surrey examined the medication adherence levels of 1.6 million people with type-2 diabetes. They were shocked to find that a full 30% of doses of metformin, the most commonly prescribed drug for the condition, went unused. And metformin is one of the few drugs that can have a benefit (though it won't cure diabetes). Patients typically cited the side effects, such as gastrointestinal symptoms, as the reason they weren't taking the medication as prescribed.
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I can understand their hesitation. I don't want to suffer from diarrhea or flatulence either. But I also don't want to drastically increase my risk of eye disease or kidney damage, which is what diabetic patients do when they don't take the proper steps to control their condition.
I do think it's possible to treat and even reverse type 2 diabetes without medication. I've written extensively about how to do this in my book The Type-2 Diabetes Breakthrough. If you're skipping your metformin doses because they make you feel bad, you should order this book today — before your health gets any worse. However, I want you to follow this program with your doctor's supervision. And you should always discuss any medication changes with your doctor before you make them. If you're not taking your medications as prescribed, your doctor needs to know so that he or she can help you find a better alternative — or understand the risks you're taking.
One of the biggest problems doctors face from their patients is compliance. Even patients looking for alternatives often don't follow their doctor's advice. You can't get better if you don't take the appropriate action to improve your health. Of course, that doesn't mean blindly following a doctor's advice to take a drug. You may need a Second Opinion.
I have found that a number of conditions doctors like to treat with drugs can be treated naturally through healthy habits and lifestyle changes. But stopping many medications abruptly can be dangerous. And you need guidance and accountability if you're going to rely on healthy habits as your main treatment approach as well. Find a doctor who is willing to work with your preferred approach, and then be sure to communicate exactly what's working and what's not — before you make any changes on your own.
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD