When medication fails

Posted March 31, 2011 by Katie

Pills, from Flickr Creative Commons, e MagineYour doctor has prescribed a medication for you, but you don’t think the drug is working.

There are many reasons why a medication may fail, but your action in each situation should be the same—talk to your doctor about your concerns and work together to find a solution. In the meantime, continue taking it as prescribed until your doctor tells you otherwise.

Here are some of the reasons that might lead you to believe that your medication is not working.

You don’t feel any different

  • Many medications, like those that lower cholesterol, work “silently” without any outward signs. Routine lab work can help your doctor determine whether or not you’re on the right dose.
  • Some medications can take a long time to become effective. For instance, some antidepressants can take up to 4 to 6 weeks to become fully effective.
  • Your dose may be too low.
  • Your medication might be expired, or if your medications have been stored in unfavorable conditions, like a humid bathroom, they may have become less effective.
  • You’ve missed a dose. With daily medications, skipping a dose can decrease the medication’s effectiveness.
  • One of your medications is interacting with another. Be sure to tell your doctor about all medications you take, even over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and herbal supplements

You feel very different or are experiencing side effects

  • Your dose may be too high. The drug may be doing exactly what is intended, but you are receiving “too much of a good thing.”
  • One of your medications is interacting with another.
  • The drug is working not only on your condition but on additional targets in your body. Often these side effects are manageable when you talk to your doctor.

You feel much worse

  • You may be allergic to your medication.
  • Your medication is expired.

Contact your doctor for a new prescription to ensure these emergency medications are fresh and on hand when you need them.

Additional resources

Dealing with medicine side effects and interactions


Photo credit: E-Magine Art

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The information written about in this blog is not intended to be medical advice. Please seek care from a medical professional when you have a health concern.