The common phrase “take this drug as directed by the physician” probably stands out in most of the medical literature and adverts for medicines making rounds on different media spaces like television, radio and magazines for all drugs. Question is, have you ever asked yourself why you need to follow the doctor’s instruction or even what would happen in case you do otherwise?

One may ask, what are the odds that someone will take medicine contrary to the doctor’s advice? Well, the response is even more shocking than the question. On average, 4 out of 10 adult people who take more than one drug do not take it as per doctor’s prescription and advice.

To get maximum benefit from your medication, it is important that you follow your prescriber’s instruction; more precisely you need to understand what the instruction means as intended by your prescriber. This means that you will have to ask questions to clear any doubts.

The common instructions are given in regard to dosing frequency, interactions with different food items, duration of taking the drug and storage. Before taking any medication, it is extremely important that you understand some key points like;

  1. When do you need the drug or simply what is the condition it is treating?

Drugs are made targeting different conditions. It is important that the right drug is given to the right patient for right condition in the right dose for the right duration. This is the fundamental principle of pharmaceutical care


  1. How to take the drug?

This takes reference to the number of times a day, number of tablets per dosage, any special administration requirements such as meals, number of days of treatment and many others. The prescriber’s expression 2×3 for instance is not a mathematical riddle or expression that requires a mathematics genius. It is simply an instruction to the patient that “take 2 capsules three times a day” instead of using a calculator and taking all 6 capsules at once. This shows how easily instructions can be misinterpreted. Always ask when an instruction seems vague.


  1. How to store the drug.

Drugs require special storage conditions. This explains instructions like, store in a cool dry place, keep under refrigeration-for items that become ineffective at room temperature, do not keep for more than 2 weeks after opening for eye drops or for one time use. Such storage instructions will ensure the drug remains effective during the time of use.


  1. What might happen when you do not take the drug as prescribed?

Paracelsus, a Swiss chemist and physician made a quote “the dose makes the poison” to emphasize the thin line between a drug and poison. Your chance of a better health outcome improves when you take your medications as directed.


Each stakeholder has a role to play. Follow the doctor’s instructions and take charge of your health.

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