No matter what sort of health issue you’re facing, making medication decisions is often one of the most difficult parts of the whole mess. You might have an idea, your doctor might have some suggestions, and nowadays there are advertisements thrown into the mix telling you about even more additional options.
It’s information overload right from the start. On top of that, you’re not feeling well and it’s really hard to think clearly about anything.
It’s okay to take your time making these difficult decisions. Don’t let a doctor pressure you into a rushed decision, unless of course it is truly an emergency situation and an immediate treatment is needed. If it’s a true emergency, you’re sitting in a hospital and need something right that second, ask for an advocate to be there or at the very least ask the nurse in the room their opinion of the suggested treatment. Whatever you need to do.
When it’s something you can take your time deciding on, don’t be afraid to say, “I just want to look at the information and get back to you before we start this treatment.” You can take the time to look at side effects, alternatives, and maybe even seek a second opinion if you’re feeling very unsure.
Talk to friends, family, and anyone in your support circle about the medication and get their feedback as well. If something throws up a red flag for them, ask them why and talk through it.
Surprisingly, I’ve found Reddit sub forums to be a really helpful place to talk with people about new medication and treatment plans. If there’s a Reddit sub discussing your condition (and there probably is) get in there and do a search for the medication your doctor is recommending. You don’t have to post in the forum if you don’t want to, but you can read real life experiences of people who have taken that medication for the condition you’re treating, whether they feel better or worse, whether they have side effects, and how long it took for them to see results. In some cases there are even discussions about trials and new medications, which can be very interesting.
There’s also time and cost to consider. If the treatment or medication is long term, can you afford to keep it up, what portion does your insurance cover, etcetera? Unfortunately, for many of us cost is a big deciding factor. I know it often is for me.
When my dermatologist prescribed Dupixent my copayment was $275 per two doses. That was way out of my budget. The manufacturer had an offer for a $0 copayment program that I qualified for, so I was able to get the medication at no cost. Over the long term the medication wasn’t a winner for me, but I’m glad I was able to at least give it a try and find out before moving on to something stronger and scarier.
Now I’m facing another medication decision, whether or not to go with a particular immunosuppressant, and I’m going through all the steps and stress again. I have to have some testing done, labs are of course the first expense involved, and it requires ongoing lab work every month, so there’s another cost in addition to the medication. Then there’s the list of side effects and risks to consider. Fortunately, my doctor recognizes the overwhelm and always sends me home with plenty of literature to read and recommends taking the time to consider all the factors before we move forward. She always tells me, “If you’re not comfortable with any part of that medication, we’ll find something else.”
All this to say, it’s okay to feel unsure about taking medication. Ask questions. Do research. Ask more questions!