With prescription drugs, “Take as directed” sounds simple. Yet every day, millions of people skip a dose, take it at the wrong time, or use either too much or too little. Any of these can keep your medicine from helping, or even create a health risk. 

Why don’t people take drugs correctly? Express Scripts, which administers large prescription drug programs for various health insurance plans, has been studying medication adherence issues among 850,000 of its members since February 2011. They’ve identified five major obstacles: procrastination involving renewing or refilling, cost issues, forgetting and concerns about the drugs themselves. 

“We were very surprised that forgetfulness and procrastination make up about two-thirds of causes,” says chief science officer Bob Nease, PhD. 

You may not even realize you’re skipping medication. “You can easily recall twisting the lid and taking out a pill,” Nease observes, “but it’s hard to remember the one you didn’t take; you were doing something else instead.”

And when you skip your meds, you miss an opportunity to improve your health – whether that means pain reduction, disease management or lowering your cholesterol. Improve your medication adherence by overcoming common barriers with these six basic solutions from Express Scripts.        

PROBLEM: Forgetting to take medication
SOLUTION: Check out the growing gamut of reminder options like the EZY-DOSE Push Button Series Pill Reminders, which received the Arthritis Foundation’s Ease of Use Commendation. Inexpensive beepers or day-of-the-week pillboxes frequently help. More sophisticated approaches include mobile apps, and bottle caps that flash when it’s time to take a pill. Large pharmacies usually stock several kinds of reminders. Visit Epill.com for more.    

PROBLEM: Refilling prescriptions
SOLUTION: “About 25 percent of patients are fine about taking medication, but delay getting refills,” says Nease. “Try to get a 90-day rather than 30-day supply. Consider an auto-refill program or home delivery, if available.” It’s a great advantage if someone in your household can point out a dwindling medication supply.