The importance of medication management and medication adherence

Medication “non-adherence” (also known as “non-compliance”) means not taking your medicine as prescribed according to the directions of your healthcare provider and/or the directions on the medicine label.

What is medication non-adherence?

Approximately 50% of the 187 million Americans who take one or more prescription medicines do not take their medications as prescribed. Medication “non-adherence” or “non-compliance,” either intentionally or inadvertently, can include:

  • Failing to initially fill a prescription
  • Failing to refill a prescription
  • Discontinuing a medication before the course of therapy is complete
  • Taking more or less of a medication than prescribed
  • Taking a dose at the wrong time

Lack of prescription medicine adherence is considered America’s “other drug problem,” leading to unnecessary disease progression/complications,  lower quality of life, and possibly premature death. Individually, not taking your medicine as prescribed may lead to longer or more serious illnesses, or incomplete symptomatic relief a medicine is intended to provide.


The U.S. pays a high price for poor adherence:

 Lack of medication adherence causes poorer health outcomes, resulting in approximately 125,000 preventable deaths a year. Nationally, avoidable medical spending ( ER visits, hospitalizations) due to non-adherence accounts for up to $290 billion per year or 13 percent of total healthcare expenditures. Thus, non-adherence to medicine not only hurts individual patients but negatively impacts our entire healthcare system.

Taking your medicines for the proper length prescribed, at the right time and dose, and according to precise instructions, can help you feel and stay well. Medication adherence assures the maximum benefit from the therapy and minimizes risk.


Medication adherence

Tips for keeping track of your medications and remembering to take them

  • Look into ways to reduce the cost of your medicines. Probably, the most common reasons for intentional non-adherence is the cost of medicines. With skyrocketing prices and increasing co-pays, people don’t fill the prescription, skip doses or take it less frequently than recommended to have medications “last longer.” Currently, many drug manufacturers offer prescription assistance programs that provide free or low-cost medications to people who can’t afford their medications. Some assistance programs can be found on the sites RxAssist orNeedyMeds. Become knowledgeable about prescription drug savings cards and other ways to lower prescription drug costs.
  • Keep things simple. Talk to your doctor and/or pharmacist about how to simplify your medication therapy schedule to make it easier for you to keep track of everything. Work to take your medicines at the same time each day, and tie your medication schedule to your daily activities. Communicate information about these discussions or therapy changes with any health care providers you see regularly.
  • Work with one pharmacy: Using poly pharmacies can cause serious breaks in the communication loop among your providers. Use one pharmacy for all prescriptions and refills—that way, the pharmacy can help manage your refills and check for possible drug interactions.
  • Coordinate prescription refills: Talk with your doctor and pharmacist to schedule the timing of when you obtain medications you take on an ongoing basis.  Many pharmacies now can help you align refill dates to pick up all of your medications at the same time each month and speak with the pharmacist about your medicines. This is known as refill synchronization.
  • Download a medication reminder or pill reminder app (My Medication Record, My Medicine List, Medi-Safe, etc.) or make a printed pill reminder sheet or calendar. Writing down your medication schedule will help you keep track of what to take and when. For each medication, you take, note the day and time you should take it, how many doses/day you will take, and any special instructions (for example, “take with food”).
  • Explore other reminder tools or products that will work best for you. Many tools are available to help you remember to take your medications. Some patients use pill reminder apps or alerts on their phones or computers. Some prefer medicines in adherence packaging (e.g., “blister packs”). Many rely on weekly or monthly pill-holding containers to sort medicines by day or dosage time of day. If you move your medicines to a pillbox, be sure to keep the original labeling so you can quickly reference dosing information and other instructions. Also, pill containers are not child-resistant, so store them away and out of sight of young children.

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