December 3, 2019

Medication Adherence

When you have a medical condition for which your doctor has prescribed medication, it is very important that you follow the dosing instructions given by your doctor or pharmacist.  This is referred to as medication adherence. 
“Depending on the conditions for which they are being treated, as many as 70 percent of Canadian patients are not taking their medications as directed by their physicians.”1 Failure to take your medication as prescribed could lead to prolonged, aggravated, or even more complex illnesses and hospitalizations. 
There are many reasons why patients fail to take their medication as prescribed:
Side effects – some medications can have negative side effects that may make you feel worse than the underlying condition itself.  If this happens to you, talk to your doctor or pharmacist as they may be able to offer advice to ease the side effects or substitute the drug for something less irritating;
Complex treatment plan – if you take multiple prescriptions, it can be confusing to know what to take when so some prescriptions may be inadvertently skipped.  Some pharmacies are able to package prescriptions in such a way that staying on track is effortless;
Feeling better – sometimes the prescription resolved the symptoms before the prescription ran out.  Since the patient feels better, they stop the treatment.  However, stopping a treatment plan early can just lead to a recurrence. This often happens in the case of antibiotics.  Always finish the medication as prescribed.  If you don’t think you need it any more, talk to your doctor before stopping; 
Inconvenience – some medications require special handling (ex. refrigerated, delivered via syringe) which can make taking them inconvenient so sometimes a dose (or more) is skipped.  Diabetics know this all too well;
Cost – medication is expensive.  To make a prescription last longer, some people will cut pills or not fill a prescription at all.  If the costs are a concern, talk to your doctor and/or pharmacist about options for lower-cost substitutions or patient-care programs offered by pharmaceutical companies and government programs.
There are resources to help keep you on track with your treatment plan.  Your doctor and/or pharmacist are the obvious ones.  However, there are others. 
If your benefit plan provides an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP), they may be able to help you come up with a plan that works for your lifestyle.
Many insurance providers are now providing health care navigation services especially in the case of specialty drug treatments which are often costly and complex.  They will work with the patient to find funding from other sources such as government and pharmaceutical company financial assistance programs.  They will also help the patient better understand their condition and treatment plan including possible side-effects and come up with strategies to manage them.  Patients can expect a call from a registered nurse to check in to see how the treatment is progressing, prompt the patient to remain adherent, and answer any questions that may arise. 
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