What is Medication Adherence, and Why is it Important?



One of the most important ways you can manage your short-term or long-term health condition is by taking your medicine as directed by your doctor, pharmacist or other healthcare professional. This is also known as medication adherence.

In fact, not taking your medicine as directed can lead to other health problems, especially if you already have asthma, heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure.

Many people never fill their prescriptions or never pick up their filled prescriptions from the pharmacy. Other people bring their medication home but don’t follow their doctor’s instructions—they skip doses, stop taking the medicine, take more than instructed, take their medications at the wrong time of day, or take their medication incorrectly (with or without food). Some people take other’s medication to treat the same illness or condition without seeking medical guidance.

Not taking your medicine as directed can be detrimental to your health, can prolong or acerbate your condition, or can rob you of a long and healthy life.

More than 30 percent of medicine-related hospitalizations happen because people do not take their medicine as directed. Not taking your medicine as directed can do more than just send you to the hospital—almost 125,000 people die every year in the United States simply because they did not take their medicine as directed.

What is Medication Adherence, and Why is it Important? 1

Why does this happen?

Often there is no single reason someone does not take their medicine as directed, but rather a combination of reasons including forgetfulness, side effects, uncertainty and cost. No matter the reason, the result is the same—patients lose protection against future illness and face serious health complications.

If you have questions about your condition, how your medicine works, why you need to take your medicine, side effects or other concerns, the best approach is to talk to your doctor or pharmacist. Your doctor, pharmacist, nurse or other healthcare professional can help you understand your health problem and all the things you can do to manage it, starting with taking your medicine as directed.

Most pharmacies in our network provide patient counseling in a safe and private environment.  Here is a list of questions to ask your doctor or pharmacist if you need more information about the medication you have been prescribed to take:

  • What condition was the medicine prescribed to treat?

  • What does the medication do, why it is needed, and how does it work in the body?

  • Why was this specific medicine selected? Are there other alternatives?

  • What is the dosage schedule and related instructions about how to take the medicine (before eating, with food, etc.)?

  • Will this medicine work safely with other medicines being taken (both prescription and nonprescription medicines)? Make sure your doctor or pharmacist is aware of ALL your existing medications—even over-the-counter medicines like aspirin, decongestants, allergy medicines, etc.

  • What do I do if doses are missed or delayed?

  • What are the common adverse effects that may occur, and what do I do if I experience them?

  • How do I monitor whether the medicine is having its intended effect (are lab tests or blood work necessary; if so, how often)?

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