Why patients don’t take their medications

Medication non-adherence is a $300B issue that can impact the cost of prescription drugs, medical care, and lead to serious health risks. Unfortunately, without greater support, non-adherence can become commonplace especially among patients with chronic disease. But medication non-adherence is more than just skipping a dose or forgetting a refill. There are many common reasons that can lead to patients not taking medications, and there are simple solutions that can help patients overcome these hurdles and become more engaged in their treatment.

Below are the most common reasons for medication non-adherence.

Fear is perhaps the biggest reason why patients knowingly choose not to take medications. They may be frightened of potential side effects or previously experienced side effects with similar medicine. Additionally, patients may choose not to take a medication because they heard from others about side effects from someone who took the same medication. Fear is also a psychological barrier, as taking medication is often seen as confirmation of a diagnosis that a patient is apprehensive to accept.

Patients may also fear becoming dependent on a medicine, so they opt to not take it at all. To help reduce fear and worry about taking medications is to improve the communication channels with patients. Inadequate communication can account for 55% of medication non-adherence, making it important to provide pathways for patients to understand the importance of taking medications, any side-effects, or risks of non-adherence, and provide support and understanding for any concerns about their condition. Pharma is increasingly utilizing digital companions to help close this gap, adding a direct connection for patients to learn more about their medications, track doses, and engage with resources to help support their treatment.

A major barrier to adherence is often the cost of the medicine prescribed to the patient. High costs may lead to patients choosing not to fill their medications, skip doses to extend an initial prescription, or start rationing due to increased costs. These issues can often be resolved through enrollment in co-pay programs, pharma patient savings programs, or even by opting for generic alternatives. Integrated savings programs within digital drug companions can help educate patients on ways to reduce the cost of medications instead of skipping doses.

Many patients may opt to stop taking medications when they do not understand the purpose or don’t see any early results. This is especially true for patients who take maintenance medications to reduce the risk of serious health complications. When no symptoms or visible changes take place, patients may believe medication use or effectiveness is no longer. Patients who take medications for mental health issues such as anxiety or depression often experience non-adherence as no physical changes can be attributed to medication use.

Additionally, once a patient’s condition is controlled, they may think the problem has resolved and discontinue using the medication. It’s important for patients to know that they may need to take the medicine for a long time. A digital drug companion can help to provide patients with timely information and deliver ongoing medication support. Education and reinforcement delivered through digital companions can help patients continue their medication therapy because they better understand how medications work and what to expect.

Depending upon the diagnosis, patients may face a certain amount of depression in association with taking a medication. And studies show that patients who are depressed are less likely to take their medications as prescribed. Many patients may feel shame or embarrassment and want to skip medication use altogether. Patient support services are essential in these situations, helping patient understand they aren’t alone, and that many patients experience similar challenges. Digital platforms can help to connect patients with others who also have similar diagnosis, hear from those who benefit from medication use, and provide encouragement toward a positive outcome.

Too many medications
For patients with multiple chronic conditions, managing what to take and when can often be too confusing. This can lead to patients choosing what they perceive as taking only the most important medications and foregoing the rest. But this is a very risky proposition and can exacerbate other conditions. Utilizing a digital drug companion can help to simplify scheduling and reminders of what to take, and when. Medisafe helps patients understand what medications can be taken together at the same time of day.

Reasons for medication non-adherence can be different for each person, and every patient may struggle with keeping up with medications. However, simple tools and support can help to reduce the risk of missed doses and increased health risks to achieve better health outcomes. Whether it’s a digital drug companion or encouragement from a family member, managing medications doesn’t have to be a solo act and can help to improve the lives of patients with help from others.

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