How to Improve Your Medication Adherence

Published: December 04, 2021
Madeline Shepherd
By Madeline Shepherd, 2022 PharmD Candidate

Remembering to take your medication at the right time may seem like a pretty simple idea.  However, anyone who has started a new medication or changed their medications knows that it takes time and effort to incorporate those changes into a daily routine, especially when taking multiple doses in a day. Taking your medications exactly as they are prescribed is called medication adherence. Pharmacists realize that medication adherence can be a struggle and we want to help! This article explains why it is important for you to take your medications as directed.

Why is taking your medications at the right time important?

It is important to maintain the appropriate medication level in your body. When you take your medication, it travels through your body and sticks around until it is removed in one of several ways. Some medications last in your body for a long time, while others are removed much more quickly. That’s why some medications are dosed more frequently than others.

Before a medication is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for a certain condition, it is studied extensively to determine its ideal concentration, or amount, in the body for it to do its job. This concentration needs to be consistent for the entire time you are taking the medication; otherwise, you may not be getting the full benefit of the medication.

Taking your medication at the right time also helps to prevent disease and medical problems from occurring. For instance, cholesterol-lowering medication treats high cholesterol, but it is actually preventing you from something more serious like a stroke. Blood pressure lowering medications work daily to keep your blood pressure at normal levels and reduce the risk of heart issues or stroke. While it may not seem like these medications are doing much day-to-day because you can’t feel or see a direct effect, taking them as prescribed can help prolong your life and prevent more severe health complications.

Other medications are intended to treat conditions that have been diagnosed by your doctor.

For instance, anti-inflammatory medications work to control pain, bring down a fever, or reduce inflammation. Medications to treat diabetes help to bring blood sugar down in various ways. Taking medications as prescribed may help you overcome a short-term illness or control a specific disease.

What should I do if I miss a dose?

Before you start your medication, read the medication handout you receive from your pharmacists to understand what you should do if you miss a dose.

If it is close to the time you are supposed to take the next dose, do not double the dose unless specifically recommended by your doctor or pharmacist. Doubling up on your medication can have serious or life-threatening consequences.

Always ask your pharmacist about what you should do if you accidentally miss a dose when you begin taking a new medication.

How can I improve my medication adherence?

Use a pill box: Make sure to get a pill box that matches your needs—such as multiple daily containers, one you can attach to your keychain or take with you in your purse for a single day or time. Be careful to store these out of reach of children and pets as they are usually not designated as child-safe containers.

  • Set an alarm: Set an alarm on your phone to help you remember to take your medication at a certain time.
  • Create a routine: Incorporate your medication into your daily routine. For example, take your medication after brushing your teeth or after putting on deodorant. Keep the medication bottle stored near your toothbrush, hairbrush, or deodorant.
  • Use visual reminders: Use sticky notes, a dry erase marker on a mirror, or put a sign on the door so you see it before you leave the house.
  • Ask for family support: If you struggle to keep up with your reminders, work with a friend or family member to help keep you accountable.

What if I tried everything and still can’t remember to take my medications?

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about coming up with a schedule that fits your daily routine.  Some medications that are dosed multiple times a day may have alternatives or extended-release formulations that only need to be taken once daily. Some other medications may have combination products that allow you to reduce the number of pills you take on any given day. Other times, you might be able to combine your medication times throughout the day.

While it is important to find the schedule that works best for you, do not change or stop taking any medications without first talking to your pharmacist or doctor.




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