Medication Non-Adherence

April 17, 2019

Taking Medications Incorrectly

Medication Non-Adherence Can Cause Serious Consequences

As many as three out of four Americans don’t take their medication as their doctor directs. This is called medication non-adherence, and it can lead to severe health problems. In fact, 125,000 people in the United States die every year because they don’t follow medication instructions correctly.

What Leads to Medication Non-Adherence?

Most people understand that their doctor chooses the best medication and dose for their particular condition. But a number of things can interfere with how people take their medications. You might take medications incorrectly because of:

  • Cost—Prescription medicines can be expensive and difficult to afford.
  • Difficulty taking the medication—Injections and inhalers can be hard to manage or even be painful.
  • Doubt about effectiveness—People who are unsure if their medications are working may not be committed to taking them correctly.
  • Forgetfulness—Some people forget to take their medications or to refill their prescription.
  • Misunderstanding directions—People who have trouble reading or understanding the directions may take too little or too much medication, or stop taking it too soon.
  • Side effects—Uncomfortable side effects can lead people to skip doses or stop altogether.

Why is Adherence to Directions Important?

The type, dose and timing of medications are calculated to provide the best possible health outcomes. If you don’t follow directions, your medication won’t work as well as it should. This can cause your condition to worsen and in some cases can lead to a health crisis.

Many emergency room visits result from people not taking their medications properly. For example, heart problems, diabetes, asthma and other conditions can become dangerously worse without proper medication.

Tips for Taking Medications Correctly

The first step in taking medications correctly is to understand the instructions. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain anything that is unclear.

These steps can also help:

  • Keep a calendar near your medicines and make a note each time you take a dose.
  • Keep a list of all the medicines you take and when you take them.
  • Let someone else know your medication schedule so that person can remind you.
  • Try “timer caps” for your pill bottles. These can be set to alert you when your next dose is due.
  • Use a pill container with sections for doses at specific times, such as morning, noon and night.

If the cost of your medication is a problem, ask your doctor if you could be eligible for a drug assistance program.

*The content on this website is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Please consult a physician regarding your specific medical condition, diagnosis and/or treatment.