Poor medication adherence accounts for 125,000 deaths per year in the United States, 23% of nursing home admissions, and 10% of hospital admissions.
Medication adherence is a measure of how well you take your medication exactly as prescribed by your doctor. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that more than 50% of patients do not take their medicines as prescribed. This is concerning because not taking your medications as intended can interfere with the ability of the drug to do its job and increase your risk for serious complications.
Below are some common medications with possible consequences of not taking them as prescribed:
- Blood pressure medications: non-adherence can increase your risk for heart failure, stroke, kidney problems, and other health problems.
- Cholesterol medications: non-adherence can increase your risk for heart disease, which is the number one leading cause of death in the United States.
- Diabetes medications: non-adherence can lead to uncontrolled diabetes, which can increase your risk for heart disease and stroke, kidney disease, blindness, amputations, nervous system disease (such as neuropathy), and other health problems.
- How can you avoid these health complications? Work with your doctor to ensure that you are on a medication regimen that works for your medical condition AND for you. Two factors that most often lead to poor adherence are (1) medication cost and (2) regimen complexity. If the cost of your medicine is keeping you from taking it, or if the schedule you are asked to follow is too complex, talk to your doctor about possible alternatives.
Here are a few ways to make taking your medications easier:
- Use generic drugs when possible to help keep your costs low.
- Ask your doctor to prescribe a 90-day supply when appropriate and in accordance with your pharmacy benefit (Medicare members with a CHP pharmacy benefit have access to 90 day supplies of both generic and brand medications [excluding Specialty drugs]. Commercial members with a CHP pharmacy benefit have access to a 90 day supply of generic drugs). Less trips to the pharmacy means less opportunities to “forget” refilling your medication.
- If your medication requires you to take it more than 2 to 3 times per day, ask your doctor if there is a once daily alternative that is right for you – less doses per day decreases the chances of forgetting a dose.
- Stay informed about the medications you are prescribed, why you are taking them, and the consequences of not taking them – a more informed patient is a more adherent patient.
Help us to keep you healthy by taking your medications as prescribed!
Learn more about Medication Adherence
Download the Savvy Senior podcast of Dr. Dennis William’s presentation: Taking Medications the Way They are Prescribed. The program provides in-depth evidence about the risks associated with poor medication adherence, and ways to help you stay on track with your medications. Go to the “Savvy Senior Podcasts” page