Building Skills to Help Overcome Barriers to Medication Adherence

By Patricia Scalzo

Building Skills to Help Overcome Barriers to Medication Adherence

Did you know that medications are not taken as prescribed as much as 50 percent of the time?

Chances are that this may apply to you or someone you know.

Let’s look at some major reasons that medications are not taken according to instructions and possible solutions.

  • Cost- If a prescription is expensive, you may not even fill the prescription or may start to ration it by taking the medication only once daily instead of twice daily, or taking only a partial dose at a time. Solution: Speak with your healthcare provider to see if there might be a lower cost option that you could be prescribed or an equivalent generic medication.
  • Fear of Side Effects- Sometimes you may become fearful of developing possible side effects from a medication. Maybe you know of others who have taken the same medication and developed serious side effects. Fear can be a major barrier to medication adherence. Solution: Speak with your healthcare provider about your concerns. There may be a different medication that can treat your condition that carries less risk of side effects.
  • Misunderstanding- You may not fully understand why you need to take a certain medication or feel that taking that medication doesn’t make you feel any better. If you have a chronic disease, you may be prescribed medications that will help prevent development of certain complications. Solution: Ask your healthcare provider what each medication that you have been prescribed is for, why you need it and how it fits into your plan of care. Keep a list so you can keep track of this.
  • Polypharmacy- You may take many prescription drugs every day and may experience confusion surrounding the taking of these medications. Some sources of confusion may be not remembering if the medication was taken, not timing the medication correctly around food intake or other medications that may interfere, or not storing the medication properly. Solution: Have a discussion with your healthcare provider to see if some of the medications are available in combination pills or if any could be eliminated. Keep a detailed log of how much of each medication to take when and make sure to follow the instructions for each one about food/drug interaction specifics and how to store them. Consider using a pillbox to help you stay organized and to know which medications you have taken each day.
  • Replacement of Prescription Medication with Alternative Therapies- You may decide to skip your prescription medication and take vitamins or other alternative drugs instead. Solution: Tell your healthcare provider of any over the counter drugs or therapies that you are using. Some alternative therapies may fit in fine with your plan of care. Also discuss with your healthcare provider if you are not taking the prescription medications as prescribed so they can work with you to come up with a plan that will allow you to treat your condition optimally.
  • Worry and Concern- You may feel worried that your medication will change your personality or that your body may become dependent on it. People can have many different concerns specific to them as to why they don’t take their medication as prescribed. Solution: Talk with your healthcare provider about your worries and concerns. They will be able to provide accurate information for you to target those concerns.
  • Depression and mood- Depression is a barrier to taking medications as prescribed. Solution: Communicate with your healthcare provider about your depression. You may need treatment for the depression or, if you are already being treated for depression, you may need a change in therapy if you are not responding well to that treatment.

In summary, when you take your prescription medications as instructed, you are investing in your current and future health.  It is important to discuss any concerns that you are having about your medications with your healthcare provider. Make sure you understand your healthcare conditions fully and understand how the medications that you have been prescribed fit into your health plan.

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Orignially published on March 2, 2020, updated on March 12, 2020

Topic: Medication Adherence

Patricia Scalzo

About Patricia Scalzo

Patricia Scalzo, MSN, RN, CDE, is a diabetes care and education specialist and telephonic diabetes health coach with Cecelia Health. She is on a mission to improve the lives of people living with diabetes. Patricia is experienced in diabetes technology, including its practical applications and accompanying challenges.