A survey of over 1,020 people recently by the National Community Pharmacists Association found that nearly 6 out of 10 people admit to not taking medicine as prescribed by their doctor. Reasons given were forgetting whether or not they had already taken the medicine or not refilling a prescription before running out of it. Twenty-two percent reported taking a lower dose than the doctor recommended and 14% stopped the medicine without checking with their doctor first. Nearly a third reported costs were an important decision maker in deciding if they were going to fill or refill a prescription.
Thirty percent reported forgetting whether they had taken their medication, and 28% said they failed to refill a prescription medication in time. About 2 in 10 said they have taken a lower dose than instructed (22%) or did not fill a new prescription (20%). Fourteen percent admitted to going off their medication without consulting their physician.
Forgetting to take medication is the problem for many people. Pre filling medication planners for a week or two at a time and using wrist watch alarm clocks or a phone app reminder system will greatly improve a persons ability to adhere to a schedule. There are also paper forms that can help a person remember what needs to be taken.
For most people, before deciding to stop taking medication on their own, consider asking your doctor the following:
What benefits do this medicine provide?
What will happen if I don’t take this medicine?
What are the alternatives to taking this medicine?
Is there anything I am currently taking that I can stop?
Are there any potential side effects if I take this medicine with other medications that I am prescribed?
If the person has difficulty obtaining or refilling prescriptions, a new system to obtain medications can occur with a pharmacy that delivers. Many pharmacies now offer refill reminders or automatic refill service which greatly improves adherence as the pharmacy will also contact you with an automatic telephone reminder when the prescription has been refilled. Many also find that scheduling family or friends to pick up medications on a routine basis will help those who do not have access to delivery service and find it more difficult to leave their home.
If funds to purchase medication are a problem, request your pharmacist to refer you to participate in drug company grant programs. Consider consulting with the pharmacist regarding use of generic drugs and also don’t be shy about asking your doctor who prescribed the medicine about the availability of drug samples to help off-set the costs. Many states have an additional assistance program for low income families who require prescriptions.
Medication schedule confusion can be managed by developing a customized pill card complete with schedule, pictures of the pill and the number of pills to be taken each time with easy to follow graphics. This tool is also extremely useful for someone with limited reading skills.