Pathways to Compliance

No one can argue that the reasons for skipping medications are trivial. But there are just as many reasons – primarily health and happiness – for working to overcome the barriers you face.

If you’re one of those people who isn’t taking medications as prescribed, think about why you don’t. If costs, side effects and doubts about their effectiveness or even doubts about your doctor are stopping you, talk to your doctor and be honest about it. She might be able to give you a different drug, a different dosage, or offer advice and information about how medications can relieve your symptoms – or even suggest lifestyle changes that could reduce your need to take certain medications.

Here are some more strategies to help you find a medication plan that works – and stick with it.

Soak up accurate information. “Patients need to be active participants,” says DiMatteo. “Ask your doctor questions. If you don’t understand something, ask him to explain and give you additional resources.

Find financial assistance. “Ask your insurance company about co-pay assistance,” suggests Dr. Dore. Your doctor and pharmacist might also know about prescription assistance programs that could help you.

Don’t accept side effects. Your doctor might be able to offer a similar medication that won’t have that effect, or let you know that the side effects will diminish as your body acclimates to the drug, says DiMatteo.

Ask about combination or long-lasting drugs. They may or may not be preferable in terms of safety record, cost, side effects and effectiveness, but they can be taken less frequently. Says DiMatteo, “In general, easier regimens achieve greater adherence than more difficult ones.”

Use gimmicks. One reason people don’t take medications is they forget to take them – or whether they’ve already taken them. Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., came up with a solution. In a 2009 study, the researchers found that older adults were better able to remember if they’d done a habitual task – like taking medicines – if they also performed a unusual movement, like tapping their head, at the same time. Other gimmicks: pill organizers, calendars, beeping computers, drug diaries, text messages and medication charts.