The next time you visit your doctor you’ll most likely leave with a prescription in hand. For every ailment there is a recommended treatment. Whether it’s an antibiotic to treat an infection, a statin to control cholesterol, or even a simple daily aspirin to reduce the risk of heart attack, we take these medications and hope for the best. Unfortunately they may not always be as effective as we expect.
A recent article in the New York Times explained the metric that puts the effectiveness of medications and other treatments into numbers. Created in the 1980’s and known as the “number needed to treat,” or NNT, this metric reveals how many people need to receive a specific treatment in order to see a benefit in one single person. It shows us that in many cases a medication or treatment will drastically change the lives of just a few, while the vast majority of patients taking it will likely receive no benefit at all. Does a discrepancy that large mean one should stop taking that medication? Not necessarily. What it gives us is a perspective on benefits versus risk, and the opportunity to ask more questions when it comes to managing our medications.
It is a physician’s responsibility to carefully explain to their patients how much, or how little, benefit to expect from taking a particular drug, changing one’s lifestyle, or undergoing a medical procedure. Patients with chronic pain who may be taking multiple medications must be particularly aware of possible side-effects and interactions with other medications. Pain killers, statins, sleeping pills, and other commonly prescribed medications, all have their proper place in managing our health, but can have unintended side-effects that may create new problems.
5 simple tips to help you safely manage your medication intake:
1) Keep a diary of all the medications you are taking, the prescribed dosages for each, and why you are taking them.
2) Review your medications with your physician on a regular basis – say, every 3-6 months – to ensure that the medications and doses are still appropriate.
3) Call your doctor to report any new symptoms you are experiencing as a result of taking a new medication.
4) Be sure to tell your physician about all of the herbal remedies and nutritional supplements you are taking as they can interact with your prescribed medications.
5) Ask your physician about any potential side-effects or interactions of your medications, medicinal herbs, and supplements.
In sum, when it comes to your body, be sure you know what medications you’re taking and why. And if you have questions about your medications, don’t be shy; talk with your doctor as soon as possible.Print this page