Maximizing Medicine Benefits

What is medication non-adherence?

Maximizing medicine benefits starts with addressing “non-adherence”. Non-adherence is also known as “non-compliance.” This means not taking your medicine as prescribed according to the directions of your healthcare provider or the directions on the medicine label.

The importance of medication adherence

Nearly three out of four Americans report they do not always take their medication as directed. Medication “non-adherence” or “non-compliance,” either intentionally or inadvertently, can include:

  • Failing to initially fill a prescription
  • Failing to refill a prescription
  • Stopping 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
  • Missing a dose completely

In fact, lack of prescription adherence can be considered America’s “other drug problem.” This can lead to unnecessary disease progression, disease complications, a lower quality of life, and even the possibility of premature death. Not taking your medicine as prescribed may lead you to experience longer or more serious illnesses. It may also lead to you not getting the full relief that the medicine is intended to provide.

The U.S. pays a high price for poor adherence: About 125,000 people die each year in the United States because of not taking medicine as directed. About one third of medicine-related hospital admissions in the United States are linked to non-adherence. Additionally, it costs the country nearly $300 billion each year in added costs for doctor visits, emergency room visits, hospital admissions and more medicine.

Taking your medicines for as long as prescribed, at the right time and dose, and according to instructions, can help you feel and stay well. Practicing medication adherence assures the maximum beneficial impact of the medicines you take. It also minimizes risk.

Medication adherence

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

Explore ways to reduce medicine costs. Due to high prescription prices, people don’t fill their prescriptions. Or, they skip doses so the medicine lasts longer. Yet, there are programs that help you afford your meds. For example, prescription assistance programs provide free or low cost prescription medications. Search for more ways to save with NeedyMeds.

  • Keep things simple: Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about how to simplify your medication schedule. If possible, take your medicines at the same time each day.
  • Work with one pharmacy:  Use one pharmacy for all prescriptions and refills. This way the pharmacy can help you manage your refills and check for drug interactions.
  • Coordinate prescription refills: Talk with your doctor and pharmacist to see if you can align refill dates. Then you can pick up all medications at the same time.
  • Use a reminder tool: Try the Health Storylines app, use a printed pill reminder sheet, or write down your medication schedule. This will help you keep track of what to take, when to take it, and special instructions like “take with food.”
  • Explore other reminder tools: For instance, in addition to reminder apps, there are alerts on phones or computers. Some people use adherence packaging or “blister packs.” Some rely on weekly pillboxes to sort medicines by day or time of day. If you do this, keep the packaging to reference dosing information and other instructions. Also, pillboxes are generally not child-resistant. Keep them up and away and out of sight of young children.
  • Establish a routine: Try to tie your medication schedule to your daily activities. For instance, leave your medicine by your toothbrush as a reminder to take your pills when you brush your teeth.

Learn More

Medication adherence tips & tools from BeMedWise and partners
Learn more about minimizing medicine risks