Pharmacist explains why following prescription drug instructions can be so difficult

Prescription drugs can save a person’s life, but not following the instructions for their usage can be a recipe for disaster. Nonadherence to medication regimens is alarmingly common and can have dire consequences. Not taking medications as prescribed can lead to an illness actually getting worse, increased healthcare costs, and even avoidable hospitalizations and death. For chronic conditions like hypertension or diabetes, where symptoms might not be immediately visible, the temptation to skip doses can be high, but the long-term effects can be devastating.

Following medication schedules and instructions for their use ensures the effectiveness of the treatment. It allows the medicine to work as intended, controlling symptoms and slowing disease progression. In cases where patients need to take antibiotics or antivirals, proper adherence is crucial to completely eradicate an infection and prevent antibiotic resistance.

Why do people misuse medications?

One major hurdle that keeps people from adhering to these directions is the cost of medication. High prices can discourage patients from filling their prescriptions or lead them to ration their medications. The best ways to overcome this common obstacle include:

Your pharmacist can be a valuable resource in finding cost-effective alternatives.

Psychological factors, such as fear of side-effects or skepticism about the necessity of medication, often hinder adherence as well. Open communication with healthcare providers can demystify these concerns. Understanding the purpose and benefits of your prescription and its potential side-effects can make a significant difference.

There are also physical barriers, like difficulty swallowing pills or traveling to the pharmacy, can impede adherence. Pharmacists can offer solutions like medication delivery services, alternative formulations, or easy-to-use packaging. Don’t hesitate to discuss these challenges with your healthcare provider.

Prescription medication, vitamins, supplements
Photo by Laurynas Mereckas on Unsplash

How can you simplify your medication usage?

Complicated medication regimens can be overwhelming. Using pill organizers, setting alarms, or coordinating with your pharmacist for medication synchronization can help — this means trying to sync up a person’s prescriptions so they can pick up all their pills at one time.

Pharmacists can also review your medications to streamline the regimen, potentially reducing the number of pills you need.

Educating yourself about your medications is empowering. Understanding what each medication does, how it helps your condition, and the consequences of nonadherence can motivate you to stick to your regimen. Ask your healthcare provider questions and make use of reputable online resources for additional information.

Technology can be a great ally in improving adherence. There are numerous apps designed to remind you to take your medication, track your doses, and even provide information about your drugs. Leveraging these tools can make managing your medication regimen less daunting.

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About the Author

Alexander Olumese, PharmD

Alexander Olumese is a DMV-based registered pharmacist and medical writer. He has over 10 years of experience with community and hospital pharmacies, as well as over 3 years within the pharmaceutical industry as a medical writer within medical affairs. He has a background in a variety of therapeutic areas. However, he specializes in cardiovascular disease, oncology, pain medicine, and infectious disease.

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