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What Is Medication Adherence and Why Does It Matter to Your Health?

February 07, 2018

You saw your doctor and came away with a prescription. Your doctor expects you to fill it and to take it correctly—at the right time and in the right amount. This is called medication adherence. Medication adherence means taking your medications regularly and as directed, and it’s pretty important because it can lead to better health outcomes and save you money by preventing further health complications.

Don’t Take a Chance with Your Health

When patients don't practice good medication adherence, it can cause a range of complications. For instance, if you have cardiovascular disease and don’t keep your blood pressure in check with the prescribed medication dosages, it can lead to heart attack, stroke or kidney failure.

A study in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine found that:

  • 20 to 30 percent of prescriptions aren't ever filled.
  • 60 percent of medications for chronic disease aren't taken as prescribed.
  • Patients who take their prescription drugs only take approximately half of the prescribed dose.
  • Poor medication adherence causes approximately 125,000 deaths annually.
Use as Directed

If you've seen a doctor and been given a prescription plan, then you’re in an excellent position to take care of yourself—so stay committed to taking your medication when you should. Even if you start to feel better, don't stop your medication without talking to your doctor first.

Keep a List

Bring all of your medications or a detailed list of them to each health care visit. It’s crucial that you be truthful about whether you're taking your medicine or not. Your health care team can answer your questions about why you're taking medications, potential side effects, correct dosing and the best time to take your medications. They can also advise you on potential drug interactions. Your pharmacist is another good resource for questions about your medications.

Get Helpful Reminders

Help is all around you. Here are a few simple ideas to help you remember to take your medication on time:

  • Use charts, calendars or schedules to remind you to take your pills.
  • Set your clock or phone alarm to help you take your medication on time.
  • Pillboxes with daily doses in each compartment work well, too, and some of them come with an alarm you can set for your daily medication times.
  • If you have a smartphone or tablet, use an app that can help you stay on track with your meds.
  • You could even ask a friend or family member to call, text or email you reminders to take your medicine.

To be healthier and happier, be dedicated to your medication adherence plan.