Patients often don’t follow instructions when taking prescription medications — nationwide, people only take drugs as prescribed about 50 percent of the time. But adhering to medication guidelines can be essential to maintaining your health.
Take your medicines as prescribed
Not adhering to your prescription instructions can have negative health consequences. Underusing a chronic pain medication will not only reduce your quality of life, but it can increase your risk of falling because the misuse affects balance or thinking patterns.
Underuse may also make you more vulnerable to the effects of conditions the medications are meant to manage. For example, patients who don’t get the full dose of blood pressure, glucose or cholesterol medicines could find themselves at increased risk of:
Medication misuse frequently results in adverse reactions that require emergency care. The complications of misuse leads to nearly 200,000 emergency hospitalizations of patients nationwide each year.
Patients cite multiple reasons for improper medication management
Patients who are most at risk for mismanaging their prescriptions take multiple medications at different times each day. There are a variety of reasons why patients don’t follow the prescribing instructions for medications, but there are also strategies to overcome them.
Difficulty affording the cost of prescriptions
Patients may struggle to pay for the high out-of-pocket costs of their prescription medications. The result is they may not refill it, or they may take less than what was prescribed so it lasts longer. Raise your concern to your pharmacist and physician. They may be able to find lower-cost alternatives or medication-assistance programs to help you afford your prescriptions.
Concerns about side effects
Common among geriatric patients is a phenomenon known as prescription cascade, which is when a medication causes a side effect that is then treated by another medication. Patients may stop taking medications that provide benefit as a way to minimize side effects. In some cases, it is over-the-counter drugs or supplements that negatively interact with the prescription drug.
If you find yourself with unwanted symptoms, talk with your pharmacist or physician about whether one of your medications could be causing them, rather than asking for an additional prescription for relief.
Complexity of a person’s medication regimen
Some medication regimens are difficult to follow because they involve multiple medications taken at different times throughout the day. Your pharmacist and physician can help identify ways to streamline medications, such as switching to longer-acting formulations. Other strategies include the use of pillboxes and medication schedules to help you remember when to take medications.
UCLA Health offers the MyMeds program to help patients adhere to their prescription medication schedules. You can now consult with a MyMeds pharmacist who will help you overcome any barriers to medication adherence. Request a consultation through your primary care physician.