Medication Adherence – Why does it matter to me?

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By Emily Henningsen, PharmD Candidate, Class of 2018, University of Iowa College of Pharmacy

Medication adherence is defined by the American Pharmacist Association as the extent to which a patient’s behavior (i.e. taking medications at the correct time, dosage and frequency) corresponds with agreed-upon recommendations from a healthcare provider. Studies have shown that up to 50% of patients do not take their chronic medications as prescribed. Nonadherence costs healthcare systems anywhere from $100 to 289 billion annually in extra doctors visits, hospitalizations, and emergency room visits.

People may not take their medications for a variety of reasons:

  • Forgetfulness.
  • Multiple medications with different regimens.
  • Unwanted side effects.
  • Feeling that medication isn’t working or not knowing why the medication is important.
  • Barriers exist like transportation, income or knowledge about disease state.

We are all human, and forgetting to take your medication is okay if it happens every once in a while. It can be hard to take medications when you aren’t feeling any effect from them or you are taking multiple medications at multiple times throughout the day. For example, blood pressure medications may not make you feel any different. If your blood pressure is not under control, however, it can lead to heart disease or stroke later on in life, which will lead to the need for more medications in the future.

Your physician has your best interest in mind and prescribes medications individualized to you and your current medical conditions and needs. If you ever have any questions regarding your medication regimen or the reasons you are on various medications, have a conversation with your doctor. Pharmacists are an excellent resource to utilize when it comes to medications as well. They can offer you with advice on what to do if you forget to take a dose of your medication or the possible side effects of medications if you are experiencing any. Pharmacists also have access to information about the cost of medications and may be able to recommend a cheaper alternative that they can suggest to your doctor that will work just as well as the medicine you are currently taking if cost is an issue.

Here are some helpful reminders that can help you remember to take your medications!

  • Take medications at the same time every day.
  • Take medications with a daily routine like after brushing your teeth or while getting ready for bed.
  • Keep pill bottles in spots you will remember to take them – for medications taken in the after brushing your teeth, leave them by your toothbrush holder or on your nightstand next to your alarm.
  • Use a pill box to organize multiple medications or medications that are taken at different times every day.
  • Keep a medicine calendar with your pill bottles and note each time you take a dose.
  • Talk to your pharmacist about what to do in the event of a missed dose.
  • When traveling, be sure to bring enough medication to cover the entire duration plus a few extra days in case travel plans get delayed.
  • Try a mobile app like Mango Health, iPatientCare, or Dosecast where you can enter your medications and schedule and get notifications sent to your phone when it is time to take them.
  • Talk to your pharmacist about enrolling in a program through the pharmacy that offers automatic refills or medication packaging so you don’t run out of medication.
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