January 2013


For the most part people go to their physician or healthcare provider to get help or treatment for a medical problem. But some people are so stubborn they’ll wait until the last minute, suffering with an ache, pain or other uncontrolled symptom of disease or condition until they have no other recourse but make an appointment to see their doctor. It’s often only when they get to this virtual point of no return are they willing to give in, seek advice and visit their ‘healer’ of choice.

Similarly, due to stubborness, the desire to follow doctor’s orders seems to disappear for many patients as soon as the prescribed treatment or therapy relieves the pain or symptoms they were suffering from. This happens all too often with antibiotic therapy where patients stop taking their medication when symptoms subside, terminating the therapy before the full course of treatment has ended. It’s also evident when a patient is prescribed a maintenance medication to control a disease or chronic condition such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, COPD or diabetes, often leading to uncontrolled symptoms, progression of disease state or even death.

What can we do to increase patient adherence and compliance with their prescribed medication regimen?

Lack of medication adherence… America’s other drug problem-

MedTime cartoon

medication compliance cards, not clubs…

Adherence and compliance to medication therapy or prescription drug regimen seems to be an ever looming problem, adding over $300 billion in healthcare expense annually in the U.S. alone. Recent statistics posted by Express Scripts indicate 69% of non-adherence to drug therapy is behavioral in nature resulting from forgetfulness or procrastination. So what’s it going to take to get people to take their medications?

No Wooden Clubs or 2 by 4’s –

Pharmacists are continually frustrated with this problem. I’m sure physicians and other prescribers are as well. Because, for the most part, we can’t “make” a patient take their medication if they don’t want to. Even when we spend the extra time to educate patients about their disease state and prescribed medications we can’t compel anybody to be compliant if they’re unwilling to do so.

$331 billion is at stake-

Improving medication adherence and ensuring timely medication use are the greatest opportunites to cutting the nearly one-half trillion dollars of avoidable healthcare costs worldwide. Any measures taken to reduce this expense and advance the responsible use of medicines  will lead to improved health outcomes as well.

What we can do, and should do, is to continue to educate, offer encouragement and provide medication reminder devices and tools to help patients who need to improve their medication compliance.

There are many tools available ranging from simple pill boxes and reminder caps on pill bottles to smart phone apps and automated pill dispensers. Some of the most unique, innovative and easy to use reminders devices are the medication compliance cards from Med Time Compliance. These devices can be designed for specific needs ranging from their iRemindHer once a day oral contraceptive compliance card and multiple daily dosing reminder cards to unique products designed for complex dosing regimens such as growth hormone injections or chemotherapy medication regimens with variable dosing schedules.

A simple thing-

As healthcare providers we should all adopt the slogan, “Remember the Reminders” to help improve medication adherence and compliance. Adding reminders to the patient education process will undoubtedly become one of the simplest, least expensive ways to improve medication adherence and compliance in the future.

We have a drug adherence problem in the United States contributing well over $300 billion each year toward the escalation of unnecessary medical expenditures.

And you may be part of the problem!  

“Three out of four Americans don’t take their medication as prescribed while one-third doesn’t even pick up their medication,” says Rebecca Burkholder, vice president of Health Policy at the National Consumers League.

Not taking your medications correctly can contribute to long term UncleSame_takeyourmedshealth problems, especially for patients who have chronic disease such as diabetes, asthma, hypertension, COPD or heart disease.

So how do you know if you’re “part of the problem”?

Do you ever-

  • forget to take your medication on time, every time?
  • have trouble staying “on track” with your medication schedule?
  • skip doses or cut doses in half to save money?
  • forget to refill your prescriptions on time?
  • take the wrong medication?
  • fail to fill new prescriptions your doctor gives you?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions you are not being fully compliant with your prescription drug therapy.  Your failure, or non-compliance to taking your medications correctly can lead to:

  • additional physician office visits
  • progression of disease state
  • emergency room visits
  • hospital admissions

As a matter of fact –
If you’re not taking your medication correctly your medical condition will most likely worsen. It will result in increased inconvenience for you, increased healthcare costs and increased chance for a shortened lifespan or premature death.

Steps you can take –

  1. talk to your pharmacist about your medications in depth so you understand what they do and when to take them.
  2. consult with your pharmacist and healthcare provider if you have concerns about side effects from your medications.
  3. find out if there are ways to save money on your medication expenses if you have trouble affording them.
  4. fill your prescriptions in a timely manner, both new prescriptions and refills
  5. Utilize medication management and reminder tools to help you remember to take your medications each and every day.

Pharmacists are considered THE most accessible of any healthcare providers in the U.S. Use the availability of their counsel and expertise to your advantage to improve your health.