When menopause symptoms become too much for you to handle on your own, seeking out a doctor's opinion is usually a good idea. Describing your symptoms and the lifestyle changes you have made to help alleviate them will allow your doctor to come up with an appropriate treatment plan. However, once you leave the doctor's office, it's up to you to follow through on his or her recommendations. Your doctor assumes that once provided with a prescription you will follow directions and get it filled. However, there are a lot of things that can happen between leaving the doctor's office and arriving home with your medicine that may affect your treatment results.
Many times, people hesitate to fill a prescription because they don't understand what the medicine is or worry about its safety. Make sure you fully discuss your treatment options and concerns with your health care provider. There are many different types of prescription drug therapies available for the treatment of menopause symptoms. They may come in pill form, as a patch, or as a cream that needs to be applied topically. Ask all your questions before leaving your doctor's office. In particular, ask what to expect when you first start treatment. For example, when starting estrogen therapies, it’s normal to have some breast tenderness during the first month as the hormone increases blood flow in the breasts. This breast tenderness subsides over the next few weeks or months and is an indicator the hormone is being absorbed and working in your body. Request additional information if you have questions about how the medicine works. Your doctor can provide additional information for you to read that may clear up any concerns you might have.
Once you leave the doctor's office and head to the pharmacy, it's up to you to fill your prescription as the doctor intended. According to The New York Times, as many as half of all patients do not follow their doctors’ advice when it comes to medications. The overall cost of medication non-adherence is more than $170 billion annually in the United States alone. There are several reasons why patients don't fill a prescription, including cost, poor availability of the medicine, or just a lack of desire to be on the medication at all. However, if your doctor prescribed medication for you, he or she obviously believes that it will help with your menopause symptoms!
If your medication is not covered by insurance or the copay is too high, talk to your doctor about an alternate medication that may be less expensive. Before you leave the doctor's office, make sure you ask them whether a generic substitution is acceptable. While most generics work the same as their brand name counterparts, some people do respond differently to generic drugs and generic hormone therapies. Asking before you leave the doctor's office may save you a significant amount of time and hassle at the pharmacy.
Once you have filled your medication, it is important to take it as directed by your doctor and/or pharmacist. Medications will not have the desired affect if they are not taken as directed. According to The Atlantic, up to 50 percent of medications aren't taken as prescribed even after they are filled by the patient. Hormone therapies, estrogen especially, are important to take exactly as prescribed. If you don't take your medications as directed, you will not achieve maximum symptom relief and, sometimes, symptoms will increase as a result, causing possible confusion to your doctor as to why the treatment he or she prescribed isn't working.
Seeking out prescription therapies for your menopause symptoms is an important consideration if lifestyle changes aren't helping. However, the responsibility for filling prescriptions and taking medications as directed falls on the patient. Once we walk out the door of our doctor's office, patients need to follow through on the recommended treatment plan if they want to maximize symptom relief.
Sarrel, PM. Estrogen replacement therapy. Obstet Gynecol. 1988 Nov;72(5 Suppl):2S-5S.
When Patients Don’t Fill Their Prescriptions. The New York Times. Retrieved December 18. 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/20/health/20chen.html?_r=0
Generic Drugs - Are They as Safe and Effective as Brand-Name Drugs? About.com. Retrieved December 18, 2015. http://healthinsurance.about.com/od/prescriptiondrugs/a/generic_drug_safety.htm
The $289 Billion Cost of Medication Noncompliance and What to Do About It. The Atlantic. Retrieved December 18, 2015. http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/09/the-289-billion-cost-of-medication-noncompliance-and-what-to-do-about-it/262222/
Reviewed December 19, 2015
By Philip Sarrel, M.D. and Lorna Sarrel, M.S.