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Side Effects Killing Prescription Drug Use

Updated: Feb 7, 2018

Nearly one-third of prescription drug users quit taking their prescriptions due to unwanted side effects.

A new article in the journal Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism reports that up to 30% percent of diabetes patients in the UK stopped taking their prescribed medication due to unwanted side effects of the different drugs prescribed to them. The study focused on people with Type 2 diabetes, but the findings reminded me of similar findings in other studies that I’ve read with patients being treated for different conditions. I decided to take a deeper look at other studies related to prescription drug usage and patient behaviors.

The reason for my interest in this topic is due to personal experience. I’m one of those that would fit in the category of stopping the use of a prescribed medication. The primary reason that I stopped taking my prescriptions was the unwanted side effects. When the side effects are worse than the symptoms being experienced from the condition for which they were prescribed, the choice seems pretty easy. In addition, I didn’t find that the medications really worked. They helped ease some of the symptoms but they didn’t resolve the condition. After 6 months of different doctors, different medications, and thousands of dollars in out of pocket costs - I became a statistic.

According to the latest NPR-Truven Health Analytics Health Poll, nearly 33% of people have stopped taking a prescription drug. The initial belief was that prescription costs were the principle reason for the behavior. However, the results of the poll provided a different view. For the people who stopped taking the prescription, the reasons cited were:

  • Side effects – 29%

  • Didn’t need the drug – 17%

  • Feeling better – 16%

  • Drug wasn’t working – 15%

So how do prescription costs play a part in the decision? Analysts believe that people will do a cost-benefit analysis taking into consideration factors such as the perceived benefit of taking the drug, the financial costs, and the related side effects. Based on the results, a decision is made to either continue or discontinue usage.

The interesting part of the cost-benefit analysis is that even patients with insurance will stop taking prescription medications, although not at the higher rates as those on Medicaid or without insurance. The reason is that co-pays have continued to rise which means higher out of pocket expenses. Every doctor visit and every prescription has a cost associated with it. And if the perceived result is not high enough, the patient will drop the medication.

The scenario that the studies described is exactly what my personal experience was. But that leaves the question, “What do you do instead?”

Many people have chosen the same strategy that I did. What are the alternative therapies and lifestyle changes that can be made to resolve the issue? Many of the conditions that we face can be addressed through natural solutions in conjunction with healthier choices like exercise, healthier diets, and stress reducing activities. More and more, people are saying “No” to harmful side effects and saying “Yes” to self-directed health care.

If you want to stop being a statistic and learn how to take control of your health and wellness, contact me at

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