Prescriptions: Complying with the Doctor's Orders (cont.)
The Role of Medicines in Disease Prevention
Medicines are commonly used to prevent illnesses. For example, aspirin is used to
prevent heart disease and stroke while
folic acid is used to
prevent birth defects. However, if these medications are not taken regularly
according to the doctor's orders, they may not prevent the disease.
Other examples include:
in children and adults
must be given at specifically designated times.
traveling to countries with malaria must take medicines to prevent malaria
beginning well in advance of arriving in the country (so that beneficial blood
levels of the medicine are present right from the beginning of the trip). The
anti-malarial medicines must be continued during and after the trip in order to
fully protect from malaria.
control pills must be taken regularly and in the proper sequence, when
applicable, in order to prevent pregnancy.
Avoiding an Overdose and other Side Effects
easily can become toxic or give rise to side effects if not taken as directed.
Taking more than the recommended dose can greatly increase the risk of side
effects with no additional benefit for the user. A perfect example is the common
pain-reliever, acetaminophen (Tylenol), which in larger-than-recommended doses
can cause serious liver damage but does not provide greater pain relief.
effects and/or an overdose also can occur when taking another person's
medications since they often are prescribed based on an individual patient's age
and weight (in addition to considerations such as allergy and underlying illnesses, as discussed previously).
The bottom line is that to obtain the maximum benefit from medicines and
minimize the potential for side effects, patients must always follow exactly the
doctor's instructions for taking a medicine and complete the full course of
Reference: Harrison''s Principles on Internal Medicine, 14th edition, 2006Last Editorial Review: 9/4/2009