How many times have you heard a friend or family member say that they stopped taking medication because they were feeling better? Or maybe it was because they were experiencing some not-so-nice side effects? Perhaps it was even you who decided to hold off on taking a medication for one of those reasons. While it is your decision if you want to stop taking a prescription, you are actually making a risky choice that could do a lot of damage to your personal health.
Medication adherence, or taking prescriptions exactly as your doctor told you to, is key to overcoming illness and improving your health. And yet, many people don’t do it. It is estimated that 50 percent of prescriptions filled every year are taken inaccurately. But that’s not even the scariest number. Research shows that 125,000 Americans die every year due to not taking medications as prescribed. Even if it doesn’t lead to death, poor medication adherence can alter the effectiveness of a treatment plan or lead to development of other health issues.
Staying consistent with dosages and frequencies while being well-informed about potential side effects are keys to taking medications properly. Here are five other ways to be sure you’re exercising medication adherence:
- Follow instructions explicitly. Take medications exactly as directed by the prescriber, meaning at the right time of day, with or without food and all the way until you’re told to end. This is especially true for those taking antibiotics. Failing to finish the medication regimen can cause development of resistant bacteria that leads to drug resistance.
- Keep an open line of communication. Do not be afraid to ask questions; it is the prescriber’s duty to keep you informed. In addition to your doctor, pharmacists are a great resource for any questions you may have about medications. Make sure to tell your doctor about all of the other medications you’re currently taking, including prescription, over-the-counter, herbal supplements and vitamins. Also report all side effects. There may be another drug your doctor can swap out to help the side effect go away.
- Make your meds part of your daily habit. One reason people don’t follow doctor’s orders is that they just forget. Incorporate taking your medicine into your everyday routine, such as eating breakfast or preparing for bed each night. Daily alarms and reminder apps for your smartphone are helpful as well.
- Keep them in plain sight. Place your prescriptions in places you frequent the most, whether it’s your nightstand or kitchen counter. Daily dosing containers are another useful item for staying on top of your meds (just make sure it’s kept out of the reach of children). Simply fill it up at the beginning of the week and you’re good to go.
- Educate yourself. Research your medications through reputable sources, such as the American Medical Association and American Heart Association. Knowing why you’re taking them and how they’re helping your body might give you the motivation to keep taking them. Don’t forget, your pharmacist is always there to answer your medication questions.
For more information on how to accurately take your meds and communicate with your doctor, visit these blogs on this site as well as A Healthier Michigan:
- The Biggest Expert On Your Health Is…
- The Dangers of Sharing Medicine
- Too Embarrassed to Talk to Your Doctor? 5 Tips to Open the Dialogue
For additional information on how to communicate with your doctor before taking antibiotics, check this out:
About the author: Laurie Wesolowicz is director II of Pharmacy Services Clinical at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Her clinical expertise includes formulary development, specialty pharmacy initiatives, physician and pharmacist pay-for-performance incentives, medication safety and clinical utilization management operations, including pharmacy-related fraud and abuse. She’s been an adjunct clinical assistant professor at the University of Michigan since 1995, and she serves as the director of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and University of Michigan Postgraduate Year One Managed Care Pharmacy Residency program.
Photo credit: tr0tt3r