Do you fill all your prescriptions on time? Do you skip doses or take more or less medicine than prescribed by your doctor? Have you ever stopped taking your medicine prematurely, without first consulting your healthcare provider? These are all examples of what is called “non-adherence”. Adherence, simply put, is taking medicine as prescribed by your doctor. The American Pharmacists Association estimates that around 50% of patients may not take their chronic medicines as prescribed – but why is adherence so important? Keep reading to learn about the importance of adherence and tips that can help you take your prescriptions as directed.
Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, MD, once stated, “Drugs don’t work in patients who don’t take them.” The primary reason that adherence is so important is simple: poor adherence may prevent illnesses from being properly treated or managed, potentially leading to additional complications or worsening conditions.
Adherence includes factors that may be intentional or unintentional. For example, intentional non-adherence could mean stopping a medication when you believe your illness has been cured (without consulting your doctor first); unintentional non-adherence could be simply forgetting to get a prescription filled or take each dose on time. In either situation, it’s essential to take your treatment plan seriously, create a system to make adherence as easy to remember as possible, and always consult with your healthcare provider whenever you have questions or concerns.
Confirm with your prescriber how long to take the medicine.
Ask your doctor: is it expected that you’ll need to refill the prescription? Should you continue taking the medicine until the bottle is empty, or can you stop once you feel your symptoms have improved? Understanding this from the get-go can help you to avoid adherence issues or mistakes.
Always read the label or included mediation guidance.
Before taking any medicine, it’s critically important to read the label or medication guidance. This can help you understand the amount to take, how to take it, and provide any warnings that you should be aware of. Understanding and following the directions provided with your medicine or on the label is a critical factor in facilitating adherence.
Contact your healthcare provider/prescriber.
If you feel as if the illness or symptoms that your medicine was prescribed to treat have been cured and the medicine is no longer needed, it’s critical to consult with your prescriber before abruptly stopping treatment. There are certain medicines that your body could develop a resistance to when treatment is stopped prematurely. Additionally, there are cases in which medicine may control symptoms, making you feel “better,” but the doses may need to be continued to maintain control over these symptoms. If a medicine’s side effects are bothering you, or if you’re not sure that the medicine you’ve been prescribed is working for you, your healthcare provider can work with you to adjust your dose or switch to a different medicine. Regardless of your exact situation, remember that communication with your healthcare provider is critical!
Establish an organizational system to help you remember each dose.
Forgetting to take each prescribed dose of medicine every day (particularly when a patient takes multiple medicines) is a simple and common form of non-adherence. No matter your schedule or personal preferences, establishing and sticking to an organizational system may help you remember each dose. Some options include creating a written record or checklist, color-coding your pill bottles, or using a pill organizer. For more on creating a system that works for you, check out our post, “Tips on Organizing your Household Medications.”
Speak with your healthcare provider/prescriber.
Your doctor or pharmacist may be able to suggest a program to assist you in paying for your prescription. Alternatively, you may be eligible for drug assistance programs offered to patients by pharmaceutical companies, Medicare, or other programs.
Dispose of medicine promptly and correctly.
If your doctor has confirmed that a medicine you’ve been taking is no longer needed (or once a product has expired), you’ll need to dispose of it properly. When you’re taking multiple medicines, keeping ones that you no longer need or that are expired could lead to confusion or mistakes. Being diligent about prompt and proper disposal may help you to stay organized and adhere to your treatment plan.
Disposing of unwanted or expired household medicines is easy: visit our Kiosk Site Locator to find a safe and secure kiosk site near you. Kiosk sites are often located in your local pharmacy, health care facility, or law enforcement facility. They are an anonymous and convenient way to securely dispose of unwanted, unused, or expired medicines.
Due to possible disruptions associated with COVID-19, kiosk access to and operating hours at the listed kiosk locations may be impacted. If you have questions about a kiosk site, including current kiosk access, what can be disposed of, and hours of operation, contact the kiosk site directly. If you are not able to visit a kiosk and have immediate disposal needs, visit the FDA website for additional guidance and be sure to comply with all applicable federal, state, and local legal requirements.
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