Do you take medication for a chronic condition? If so, chances are you’re not happy about it. In fact, you might be partially compliant or noncompliant with your doctor’s orders. Most people would rather not be reliant on medication for their physical or mental health, and who can blame them? Not too many people want to take pills.
Did you know that 31% of all prescriptions issued are not filled the first time (Intelicare, 2016)? Half of all patients do not take their medication as prescribed, and adherence is lowest among people with chronic illness. Want another eye-opening statistic? Nonadherence costs our health care system over $300 billion annually, as emergency room visits and hospital stays increase with medication noncompliance (Prescriptions, 2016).
Not only is nonadherence costly, poor medication compliance or total noncompliance limits the effective management and control of chronic illnesses. In the United States, some 3.8 billion prescriptions are written every year, yet more than 50% of them are taken incorrectly or not at all (Medscape, 2014). The most harmful result of nonadherence? Nearly 125,000 deaths annually (Intelicare, 2016).
So let’s talk about why some people do not adhere to their medication regimens. The most widely reported barrier for noncompliance is forgetfulness. However, lack of knowledge about the medication and its use seems to be a major factor: “Up to 20% failed to take medications because of perceived side effects, 17% had cost issues, and 14% didn’t feel the need to take medication; they believed it would have little or no effect on their disease” (Medscape, 2014).
There might also be cultural, health, and/or religious beliefs about the medication. Other factors include denial or ambivalence regarding the state of one’s health, financial challenges, lack of health literacy, and lack of social support (Medscape, 2014). Some people may have trouble managing all of their prescriptions (“polypharmacy”) or have difficulty navigating the health care system. And let’s not forget possible underlying depression due to the chronic illness that can interfere with compliance and motivation.
Simplified drug regimens, patient education, and pharmaceutical counseling are just a few ideas to increase medication compliance.
Does any of this resonate with you? There are many reasons for noncompliance, but let’s start that conversation with you. Have you asked yourself: Why am I noncompliant with my treatment plan? What are the barriers to my medication adherence? What would it take for me to be more adherent to my treatment plan?
Research also has something to report about improving adherence. Simplified drug regimens, patient education, and pharmaceutical counseling are just a few ideas to increase medication compliance (NEHI, 2009). But those suggestions are mostly the responsibility of the doctors and pharmacists. What are some ways you can empower yourself in your treatment plan and adherence?
- Ask for information on your diagnosis and treatment plan. This will help you better understand what the diagnosis means and how it will be treated. Be sure to ask questions and make sure you understand confusing medical terms.
- Ask for education on the medication you are prescribed. The chance is higher for nonadherence if you don’t understand why that particular drug was prescribed, its side effects, and how often it should be taken. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain the prescription.
- Ask about your options. Maybe you’ve tried a similar medication with negative side effects, or you’ve done some concrete research on a certain drug. Don’t be afraid to ask what other medications are available to you.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, confused, or depressed about taking medication, you are not alone. But the cost, both physical and financial, is too high to ignore. Ask your doctor any questions you might have so you’re clear on and invested in the treatment, and work together to devise a plan that may help you be more adherent.
- Intelicare. (2016). Focused on Increasing Medical Adherence. Retrieved from https://www.intelecare.com/adherence.php
- Medscape. (2014). Why Are So Many Patients Non-compliant? Retrieved from http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/818850_3
- NEHI. (2009). Thinking Outside the Pillbox. Retrieved from http://www.nehi.net/writable/publication_files/file/pa_issue_brief_final.pdf
- Prescriptions for a Healthy America. (2016). Medication Adherence: A $300 Billion Problem. Retrieved from http://adhereforhealth.org/who-we-are/medication-adherence/
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