Medication Adherence: Taking Medication as Prescribed

Article | April 2020

Medication Adherence: Taking Medication as Prescribed

Follow these tips to stay on track with your prescribed medications.

Medication adherence means taking your medications as prescribed by your doctor. It sounds easy, but the American Heart Association estimates that 3 out of 4 Americans do not take their medication as prescribed by a doctor.

Tips for Taking Medications as Prescribed

  • Get your prescriptions filled or refilled in a timely manner
  • Remember to take the correct dosage of your medication
  • Understand and follow any special directions for your medications
  • Take it at the same time of the day.
  • Take it with or without food if recommended.

With many medications, consistency is key to achieving the best results. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agrees, saying that poor medication adherence can interfere with the ability to treat many diseases and manage chronic conditions, which could lead to greater complications and a lower quality of life.

Questions to Think About When Skipping a Medication Dose

If you have ever skipped a dose of your prescription medication, was it due to any of these reasons:

  • Were you concerned about side effects?
  • Were you not certain the medication was working?
  • Have you had trouble paying for your medications?
  • Did you forget to take your medication?

You are not alone. Many people have experienced 1 or a combination of these same challenges. Here are tips to ensure you don’t miss a medication dose:

  • Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about any side effects you’re worried about or are bothering you. You may need to avoid certain foods, or certain medications may interact with one another.
  • Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you think your medication isn’t effective. Perhaps it takes a while before you see the changes you’re looking for.
  • Ask your doctor about these potential opportunities to save money on your medications:
    • Switching to a lower-cost generic medication
    • Changing to an alternative medication on your drug list if the medication you are currently taking is not covered or is on a higher cost-sharing tier

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Advice:

  • Set daily routines. It can be helpful to connect taking the medication with normal, daily activities such as eating meals or going to bed. Keep backup supplies in your briefcase or purse.
  • Keep medications where you’ll see them. If you need to take your medication with food, keep it wherever you eat—maybe on the dinner table or TV tray. If you need to take any medications in the morning, store them next to something that’s part of your normal routine, like your toothbrush or your deodorant.
  • Use daily dosage containers. These have compartments labeled with the days of the week and various dosage frequencies. You can find them at most pharmacies.
  • Maintain a schedule. Write down or type a schedule that includes the medications you take, how often you take them, and any special directions. The FDA has a handy form to help. Or, consider using a device like a medication reminder pager, wristwatch, automatic pill dispenser, or even voice-command medication managers. Your pharmacist can suggest which one may be most helpful.

More Information

To learn more about medication adherence, visit the FDA and American Heart Association websites.

Women asks pharmacist questions at counter