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Resist the urge to substitute formal prescriptions

We all have had some reason or other to see a doctor. And more often than not, we end up with a prescription. It’s always best to honor your doctor’s prescriptions, and go by the recommended meds. Unless of course you have consulted a quack, in which case you shouldn’t honor whatever they prescribe. But some people often take it upon themselves to substitute whatever was prescribed with something entirely different.

You need to think seriously before substituting any formal prescriptions. If you have gone through an objective diagnostic process, and ended up with a definite diagnosis, then your prescription will have clinical validity. You are likely to end up with a cure, or optimal control of symptoms, if you adhere to what has been prescribed. But factors like cost, availability and unqualified advice from others can easily tempt you to solely decide on using something entirely different.

If you choose to substitute your doctor’s prescription, please make sure you do it right. The best way is to bring it up with the doctor who gave you the original prescription. They may consider an alternate medication based on your diagnosis and prevailing concerns. Your doctor may also advise that other alternative meds wouldn’t suit your clinical circumstances. The other choice is of course to seek a second opinion from a similar expert, and get clarification about the suitability of substituting the originally prescribed meds.

But the availability of cheap alternatives, or other similar meds, may tempt you to take short cuts and substitute prescriptions on a whim. This would be foolhardy. Not all similar meds have equivalent biological effects. Some, especially the really cheap ones are fakes. There are rogue pharmaceutical manufacturers who are in the business purely for personal gains. Fake meds will at best do nothing to you, at worst, they may end up harming you.

The other risk is potential side effects of the substitutes that you end up selecting. There is something medically referred to as drug interactions. This means some prescription meds may give you undesired effects if taken together with whatever else you might already be taking. Your doctor considers everything else you might already be on, and makes a decision on what to prescribe with calculated avoidance of potential undesired drug interactions.

If you have ended up with an objective diagnosis, don’t ignore specific prescriptions. And do not substitute the prescriptions with whatever else you fancy. You should only change your prescriptions if you already have sound medical knowledge, or after getting an alternate opinion that appears superior. Short of that, you will be putting yourself at risk. In the best of scenarios, you will end up with worsening symptoms. At worst, you may end up in an incurable status, or end up on the other side prematurely.

Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynecologist and Fertility

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