Around 50% of people, on average, don’t take their medications correctly. This can increase the risk of illness or harm to your health. Fortunately there are ways that may help you stay on track.
Occasionally missing a pill won’t cause harm for the vast majority of people if you follow the instructions in the ‘If you forget to take a dose’ section of the Consumer Medicine Information (CMI) leaflet that accompanies your medication.
But it’s a problem when you consistently miss taking pills or take the wrong dosage too often. This is called medication non-adherence and is defined as taking <80% of your prescribed dosage.
The longer you need to take a medication, the less likely you’ll continue taking it. For heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) medication, research shows there can be 25% non-adherence after 6 months and 47% after two years. Some medications may be worse than others- foe example, some studies have that found statins (blood cholesterol lowering drugs) have 75% non-adherence rates after two years.
People gave various reasons for not taking medications correctly in a recent Australian survey. Some simply didn’t have their medications when they needed to take them or were often in a hurry and forgot.
Other causes may include: poor understanding of the purpose of the medication, medication side effects, mental health problems and physical causes such as swallowing difficulties, difficulty opening containers in patients with arthritis or poor eyesight. Doctors may also contribute to medication non-adherence if they prescribe too many pills or don’t communicate the correct information about a medication.
What to do
The following measures may help improve your medication adherence:
• Ask your doctor or pharmacist about your medications if you don’t understand something
• Your doctor may simplify your medications by reducing the number you take or how often you take them; for example, swap from a short-acting to a long acting medication
• Use a pill box with features such as the week divided into the days and each day into the time of day (morning, noon, evening, bedtime)
• Use a smart phone app or text messaging reminder system
• Get all your medications from the same pharmacy, so they can help you keep track of what you’re taking.
More information, please discuss with any of our doctors at Southgate Medical Centre or visit www.nps.org.au