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A woman checking the date on her prescribed medications.

Do you take your medications as prescribed?

If you are sick and your doctor prescribes medication, will you fill the prescription and follow the doctor’s instructions or simply shrug off the doctor’s advice, opting for your own solution? According to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and Pharmacies, a whopping 20 to 50 percent of patients do not follow their doctor’s advice.  

Non-adherence, or not taking medications as instructed, is estimated to cause about 125,000 deaths per year and costs the United States health-care system an estimated $300 billion each year.

“Medicines don’t work if you are not consistent with taking them as the doctor instructed,” says Michell Butler, Pharm.D, a clinical pharmacist in the Piedmont Clinic. “It’s important to fill the prescription that your doctor gives you and take the medication as long as the doctor tells you to take it.

Why don’t people take their medication as prescribed?

The most common reason people don’t take their medicines is due to the cost, says Butler.  

If you are having trouble paying for your medication, Butler offers the following cost-saving tips: 

  • Look for prescription savings coupons and websites that can assist you with your copays.

“Tools like contain valuable pricing information,” Butler says. “You can also visit the drug company that makes the medicine.”

  • Know your insurance plan and understand the tiers in which a medicine may fall. 

“The higher the tier, the higher your cost,” Butler says.  “The lower the tier, the lower the cost.”

  • If you cannot afford your medicine, talk to your doctor to find a less expensive alternative.

Tips to improve medication adherence

Medication will only be effective if it is taken as prescribed by a physician, Butler says. To increase the likelihood that you will stay on track with your medications, she offers the following tips:

  • Use a pill box to keep your medications organized.

  • Use phone apps to remind you to take your medicine.

  • Place your medicine by your coffeemaker, bed or somewhere that connects taking your medicine with an activity that you do daily.

  • Talk to you doctor whenever you experience side effects so that changes to your medicine can be made if needed.


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