Taking medications as prescribed is important to your health

Taking medications as prescribed is important to your health

Sticking to your medication routine, something we call medication adherence, means taking the right dose of your medications in the right way at the right time and frequency. Not taking your medicine appropriately could lead to your disease worsening, hospitalization or even death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), patients do not take medications as prescribed 50% of the time. Each year in the United States non-adherence causes an estimated 30 to 50% of chronic disease treatment failures and 125,000 deaths.

Many patients do not follow their physician’s instructions on how to take medications for various reasons, like not understanding the directions, forgetfulness, multiple medications with different regimens, unpleasant side effects or the medication does not seem to be working. Another variable can be cost. If patients cannot afford their prescription, they may decide not to fill them or to take less than the prescribed dose to make the prescription last longer.

One of the most important factors contributing to successful medication adherence is establishing a good relationship with your health care provider and pharmacist. Your health care team cannot help you with your medications if they are not aware that a problem exists. By opening the communication pathway, you can comfortably and honestly discuss medications that you feel are causing troublesome side effects or not helping treat the condition for which they were prescribed.

They can also suggest ways to help keep the cost of medications down. Examples include using copay cards or assistance programs for high cost medications, or pillboxes or blister packs for high frequency medications.

Listed below are some tips from the CDC that may help increase your medication adherence:

  • Take your medication at the same time every day.
  • Try taking your medication with a daily routine like brushing your teeth or getting ready for bed. Before choosing mealtime for your routine, check if your medication should be taken on a full or empty stomach.
  • Keep a “medicine calendar” with your pill bottles and note each time you take a dose.
  • Use a pill container. Some types have sections for multiple doses at different times, such as morning, lunch, evening, and night.
  • When using a pill container, refill it at the same time each week. For example, every Sunday morning after breakfast.
  • Purchase timer caps for your pill bottles and set them to go off when your next dose is due. Some pill boxes also have timer functions.
  • When travelling, be certain to bring enough of your medication, plus a few days extra, in case your return is delayed.
  • If you’re flying, keep your medication in your carry-on bag to avoid lost luggage. Temperatures inside the cargo hold could also damage your medication. 

If you have questions between appointments, don’t hesitate to contact your physician or pharmacist.


Samantha Wright, PharmD

Dr. Wright is a clinical pharmacy specialist in the department of family and community health at Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine and Marshall Family Medicine.

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