With countless diseases, conditions, and illnesses that could occur in anyone at any given time, physicians have to be incredibly well-versed in the ways they can treat their patients. While some issues do not require prescription medication, the vast majority of Americans are on various pharmaceuticals. Data from 2017 found that 55% of people in the United States are on some type of prescribed medication.
Individuals who don’t visit the doctor often or rarely take anything beyond an over-the-counter pain reliever every so often may not realize how complex the process of determining prescriptions can be. Doctors must take a wide range of factors into consideration before writing down their recommendations on that small slip of paper.
But exactly what does your doctor think about when prescribing you a new type of medication? Do they just write down the latest and greatest drug and hope it will work? The answers might surprise you.
Does Body Composition Matter?
If you were to compare a smaller-framed woman to a tall and broad man and discovered that they both took the same dose of the same prescription, you’d probably be pretty confused. Doesn’t your size make a difference when it comes to how many pills you take?
The answer is complex, but for most common pharmaceuticals, a “one size fits all” approach actually works out just fine. When drugs are approved by the FDA for public use, they are assigned a therapeutic index. This means that the effectiveness of the medication is weighed against the potential side effects, and a proper dosing quantity is then established.
Most drugs have a high therapeutic index to account for variations in height and weight, so most adults are able to take a generalized dose without experiencing negative effects. Some medications naturally have a lower therapeutic index and in these instances, more care is exercised by prescribing physicians.
How Age Matters When Prescribing Prescriptions
While a patient’s body size may not play a huge part in issuing prescriptions, that rule only applies to adults. Children are in a category all their own and their smaller bodies react differently to certain medications. Although these younger individuals will need specific consideration at the doctor’s office, another group does as well.
Ideally, it’s every doctor’s goal to issue a prescription to a patient and have their symptoms dissipate without them incurring too many side effects. However as we age, our risk of negative reactions increases. While part of the issue comes with the natural tendency of older individuals to have multiple medical needs and thus multiple medications, normal aging also plays a role.
An increase in body fat and a decrease in memory, kidney and liver function, body fluids, and digestive system functions all affect how well one’s body can handle a specific prescription. Those who are older need to ensure they have clear communication with their physician before they blindly begin taking any and all medications they’re prescribed.
Additional Medical Concerns
There are some instances where a patient’s current medical condition will affect the prescription that a doctor will recommend. Some groups are a little more obvious, like pregnant women, and extra care must be used when determining if medication is appropriate for their specific circumstances.
Yet other individuals with chronic conditions have to be very careful when it comes to drug interactions, and your doctor should be well aware of the potential complications. One such concern is in patients with liver disease, specifically when jaundice or encephalopathy is also present. Because the liver plays such a large role in our ability to detox pharmaceuticals from our system, doctors have to be careful.
Issues with metabolism, fluid retention, and reduced clotting can ultimately cause certain drugs to either be too concentrated or not strong enough. Remember, if you have liver complications and are concerned about how your medications might affect you, discuss these matters with your physician.
Some individuals find that they are especially sensitive to certain medications as well. Termed “drug intolerance” by the medical community, it can make the task of prescribing drugs very challenging for physicians. Aside from this intolerance, some people exhibit an actual drug allergy in which their immune system plays a large role.
Communication Is Key
Whether you’re currently on prescription drugs or you’ll be visiting your physician soon for an issue that’s been plaguing you, it’s important to remember that you have a say when it comes to the pharmaceuticals that are recommended for you. Clear communication and appropriate expectations are crucial for you to maintain your health.
Varying options are available based upon your needs including taking lower doses, switching to or from generic medications, or finding alternative therapies that your doctor recommends. At the end of the day, you are your own best advocate for what goes into your body.