After picking up your prescription from the pharmacy, do you put it in your drawer or medicine cabinet and forget about taking it? Do you stop taking your medication because you don't feel like it's making a difference? You are not alone. The American Heart Association estimates that 3 out of 4 Americans do not take medication as directed.
Medication non-adherence is a major health problem in the United States. Not adhering to medication takes the lives of 125,000 Americans every year and costs our health care systems almost $300 billion annually with extra doctors' visits and trips to the emergency room. In addition, 33 to 69 percent of medication-related hospital admissions are a direct result of poor medication adherence.
Above all, medication non-adherence can cause dangerous problems in patients with more severe medical conditions, especially in diabetics and those with heart disease. For example, not taking blood pressure medication can lead to kidney failure and even stroke.
In short, not taking your medication, or not taking it as instructed, puts your health at risk. These five tips can help you stick to your meds and in turn, improve your quality of life:
1. Use a pillbox.
Debi Reissman, director of pharmacy benefits for Sharp Health Plan, says, "This is the number one thing you can do to help you take your medications. You can get them in one-week or one-month boxes." If you are unable to fill a pillbox yourself, your pharmacist can do it for you.
2. Combine taking meds with a daily task.
"If you need to take medication twice a day, keep the bottles near your toothbrush because you will already do that activity two times daily," says Reissman.
3. Set an alarm.
With smartphones nearby at all times, you won't be far from hearing an alarm if you set one on your phone for a specific time each day.
4. Keep it visible.
Reissman says, "I recommend keeping your prescription bottles near the kitchen sink. You use it multiple times each day, making you more likely to remember."
5. Keep costs down.
If you stop taking medication because of the high costs, you can ask your pharmacist for a generic brand. You can also try using a mail-order pharmacy, which may offer additional savings. Without overhead expenses like traditional brick-and-mortar pharmacies, mail-order pharmacies can operate with lower costs and pass savings on to the customer. Plus, you won't need to spend the money on gas driving to the pharmacy, or spend your time waiting in line to pick it up.
For Medicare members on a fixed income, "You can petition Medicare for extra help to reduce copays," says Reissman. "If you do go this route, please remember you can't use a coupon card."
Adhering to your medication is a simple way to take care of yourself. Your future self will thank you.