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 half of the estimated 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 and compliance can be considered America’s “other drug problem,” leading to unnecessary disease progression, disease complications, a lower quality of life, and even possibly premature death. On an individual level, not taking your medicine as prescribed may lead you to experience longer or more serious illnesses or not get full symptomatic relief a medicine is intended to provide.
The U.S. pays a high price for poor adherence: lack of medication adherence is associated with poorer health outcomes, resulting in approximately 125,000 preventable deaths a year. On a national level, avoidable medical spending (such as ER visits, hospitalizations) resulting directly from non-adherence accounts for up to $290 billion per year, or 13 percent of total healthcare expenditures. In this way, non-adherence to medicine can not only hurt individual patients, but also hurts our healthcare system as a whole.
Taking your medicines for as long as prescribed, at the right time and dose, and according to precise instructions, can help you feel and stay well. Medication adherence assures the maximum beneficial impact of the medicines you take, and minimizes risk.
Tips for keeping track of your medications and remembering to take them
Look into ways to reduce the cost of your medicines. One of the most common reasons for intentional non-adherence is the cost of medicines. Due to high prescription prices, people don’t fill the prescription, or skip doses or take it less frequently then recommended so that the medications “last longer.” The good news is, many drug manufacturers offer prescription assistance programs that provide free or low cost medications to people who can’t afford their drugs. You can search for assistance programs through RxAssist or NeedyMeds. Learn about more prescription drug savings cards and other ways to lower prescription drug costs.
- Keep things simple. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about how you could simplify your medication schedule so it will be easy for you to keep track of everything. If possible, take your medicines at the same time each day, and tie your medication schedule to your daily activities.
- Work with one pharmacy: Consider using one pharmacy for all prescriptions and refills—that way, the pharmacy can help you manage your refills and check for possible drug interactions.
- Coordinate prescription refills: Talk with your doctor and pharmacist to see whether you can schedule the timing of when you obtain medications you take on an ongoing basis. Many pharmacies now can help you align refill dates so that you can pick up all of your medications at the same time each month and speak with the pharmacist about your medicines.
- 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, 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 people use pill reminder apps or alerts on their phones or computers to keep track. Some request medicines in adherence packaging (e.g., “blister packs”). Many rely on weekly or monthly pill-holding containers to sort medicines by day or time of day. If you do move your medicines to a pillbox, be sure to keep the original packaging to be able to quickly reference dosing information and other instructions. Also, as pill containers are generally not child-resistant, keep them up and away and out of sight of young children.
Medication adherence tips & tools from BeMedWise and partners
- 10 tips to help remind you to stay on schedule with your medicines
- “Why adherence to medicines is so important” video
- Script Your Future medication adherence tools
- FDA’s “Why You Need to Take Your Medications as Prescribed or Instructed”
- 8 Simple Ways to Lower Prescription Drug Costs
- Is it a struggle to pay for your medicines? Prescription assistance programs can help
Learn more about minimizing medicine risks
Learn more about the personal and public health costs of non-adherence to medicines
The State of Medication Adherence Today: BeMedWise Action Agenda: Numerous behavioral, social, economic, medical, and policy-related factors contribute to non-adherence and must be addressed if adherence rates are to improve.