I visited a doctor after developing fever. I was given medication. After taking a few doses and feeling better, I stopped taking the drugs after the third day. However, the fever bounced back weeks later, it was more serious than it had previously been.
At the clinic, the medic asked me whether I had taken the drugs he gave. Because of what I was going through, I told him the truth.
He admitted me at the clinic for about six hours since I was weak. When I gained energy, he discharged me but advised me to stop taking half medications because I was putting my life at risk.
However, this incidence is not unique to me.
Many people rarely complete the medication they are given, putting their health at risk. Besides stopping to take medication because they are feeling better, some patients may do so when they react negatively to certain drugs.
In some cases though, people may fail to take a full dose of medication because of financial reasons.
“I went to the clinic when I was feeling sick. The doctor discovered that I had typhoid fever. He asked me to pay Shs107, 500 for the full treatment. However, I only had Shs30, 000 in my wallet. He gave drugs worth Shs25,000 and asked me to look for the remaining money in order to get the full dose,” says Patience Natukunda.
According to Dr Alfonse Omona, a general practitioner at Mulago National Referral Hospital, the practice of taking half doses of medicine can cause drug resistance over time.
“When patients do not take their medication as recommended, the bacteria or virus that they are fighting becomes resistant to drugs,” he stresses. He says although some antibiotics have side effects, it should not stop a patient from completing their medication. Instead, he says when a person develops negative side effects resulting from a particular medication, they should seek advice from their doctor instead of abandoning medication altogether.
He further explains that some people may experience itching and other related complications because of being allergic to drugs.
Message to the public
Dr Omona advises the public to take drugs according to the doctor’s prescription. “Patients should swallow pills at the right time and in the recommended doses. Short of this, they may develop complications for non- compliance,” he adds. He also advises people against sharing drugs, as this will mean that the person for whom the dose was given will end up taking less than what is required to cure their ailment.
He says patients with allergic reactions also need to inform their doctors before treatment is prescribed to them, to avoid cases where a person may stop taking their drugs because they are reacting negatively to it. And in case of side effects, patients should contact the medical practitioners before they abandon treatment. “This will help the doctor make further investigations and if necessary, change the drug regimen,” says Dr Omona.
Taking half medication can lead to several negative consequences.
•It can cause drug resistance.
•A person may develop negative side effects from failure to complete their medication.
•The cost of treating the disease becomes higher than the initial cost.
•It can be fatal in the long run.