For Patients Who Choose to Be Engaged

Aug 9, 2013
Many patients want to be fully engaged and empowered in their drug therapy but don’t know how. Here are some steps they can take to gain more control.

Express Scripts has excelled in developing solutions that address the natural inclination of patients toward inertia and inattention, a crucial gap in eliminating waste in healthcare. 

Then, too, the rapid evolution of healthcare science and development of new and effective therapies can leave many patients feeling overwhelmed and passive.

However, many of these patients, perhaps because of the urgency of their condition, want to be fully engaged and empowered in their drug therapy but don’t know how.

Here are some steps they can take to gain more control.

Understand Your Prescription

Before initiating treatment, you should know the intended use of the medication you are prescribed. Of course, the key source of information on treatment options should be your physician, but time with the doctor and our ability to absorb information in the office may be limited. The clinical specialists at the Express Scripts Therapeutic Resource Centers can be excellent sources of information.

We use the term “adherence” to refer to following as prescribed the dose, the dosing interval and the duration of treatment. Take your medication for the intended treatment duration. Feeling better should not be a signal to stop your medication, unless you have been instructed to do so.

The Risk of Adverse Effects and Medication Interactions

All medications cause undesired reactions in at least a subset of patients being treated. Pay attention to changes in your health status. Knowing what may happen makes you better prepared to deal with the adverse effects.

You should also know how a new medication will act in combination with other drugs you are taking. Most of the time, this is not a problem. However, you may end up with a medication that is a duplication of what you are already taking. Additionally, a number of medications interact, which could weaken the beneficial effects or, worse, strengthen the adverse reactions.

Don’t Overpay for Medications

Take advantage of lower-cost home delivery and generics when available. Even if you have insurance coverage and only have to pay a nominal copayment, there is no reason to waste money. Someone will pay the balance of the cost — your health plan or the government — and the cost will be reflected in your insurance premium or taxes.

Use Medications Sensibly

Be alert to any changes in your health status or symptoms. Inform your doctor of the effects, beneficial or undesired, of the medication. If you or your physician are dissatisfied with how you are responding, discuss other strategies such as adjusting the dose or switching to an alternative treatment.

Take advantage of the substantial gains we have experienced with highly effective medications over the past decades. We strongly recommend the use of well-documented medications that offer important health benefits. At the same time, we discourage overutilization of nonessential medications. If you take five or more medications, it would be worthwhile to consult your primary care physician to coordinate the use of your multiple medications. It is likely that one or more medications can be terminated or drug doses lowered. As a result, you may feel better and also save money.

For More Information

Express Scripts members can find more information and download selected chapters of Knowing Your Medications: A Guide to Becoming an Informed Patient — by logging into their member account.

To purchase a copy, visit

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