By Papatya Tankut, RPh
Studies show that a third of patients do not take their medications as prescribed and nearly 50 percent of patients with chronic conditions stop taking their medications within the first year of diagnosis. This is certainly a harsh reality and as a pharmacist, is something that I’m personally committed to work hard at every day to help improve.
We take great pride in making sure every customer that comes into our pharmacies not only receives the medication needed to help them get well or stay well, but also that the customer is fully educated on the prescription, dosage and refill instructions.
Taking a prescription as directed by a doctor is known as “medication adherence,” and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), poor medication adherence leads to roughly 125,000 deaths and 10 to 20 percent of hospital and nursing home admissions every single year.
These stats are not meant to scare you, but rather raise awareness and help you understand how important it is to adhere to your prescription’s instructions to ensure you live a longer, more active lifestyle.
I know that many seniors in particular are managing several health conditions and are taking multiple medications, and that keeping everything straight can seem overwhelming at times. But it doesn’t have to be—there are tools and resources available for you that make it easy to stick to your medication regimen. Here are some tips:
Develop a relationship with your pharmacist
Developing a relationship with your pharmacist can help you better manage your medications and prevent potential and harmful drug interactions. This will allow your pharmacist to be aware of all your medications in order to prevent potential interactions as they make appropriate recommendations and adjustments. Your pharmacist can even help you save money by identifying generic versions of your medications that are just as safe and effective, but cost less.
According to the CDC, four out of every 10 people that are not adherent to their medication do so because they are simply forgetting to take it. Of course, we know people are not forgetting on purpose. The demands of everyday life can often make it hard to stay the course with a prescription. CVS Pharmacy offers a number of tools and services that help people remember to take their medications routinely and as prescribed. For example, you can download the CVS Pharmacy mobile app that has digital tools that allow users to customize reminders and set up missed dosage notifications, (called MedRemind). The app also has the ability to scan a prescription’s barcode to make it easy to order refills, (called Scan to Refill).
Establishing a “pharmacy home”
Having your prescriptions filled at multiple pharmacies can lead to medication non-adherence because of the additional challenge it creates for a patient to pick up all their prescriptions. It may take some work on the frontend, but consolidating all of your prescriptions into one “pharmacy home” is recommended. As America’s leading retail pharmacy, with more than 9,600 locations nationwide, CVS Pharmacy is a good option for a “pharmacy home.” No matter where you are in the country, chances are one of our pharmacies are close by. That also means, if you are traveling and need to get a prescription refilled immediately, CVS Pharmacy will have you covered.
Use digital technology when traveling
It is often challenging to maintain your prescription regimen when traveling. Some helpful tools to consider are those available on the CVS Pharmacy mobile app that let you look up the nearest pharmacy, view your prescription history, and refill and transfer your prescription right from the palm of your hand. During travel, pills can also sometimes get loose from their containers. You can also use the Pill Identifier feature to determine which drug it is based on shape, color and imprint. These are some simple tools to remember while traveling to take the worry out of sticking to your medication schedule.
If you are unsure about a certain medication or are experiencing a side effect, it’s important to voice these concerns to your pharmacist or a trained health expert. The fix may be as simple as shifting your medication dosage or even taking your medication with food instead of on an empty stomach. Every person is unique and may react differently to new medications or lifestyle changes. Have a conversation with an expert to be sure you have the healthiest routine possible.
These tips are just a few ways to remain adherent to your medications. Ultimately, it’s important to understand that you are not in this alone and that it’s okay to lean on those around you for support, including your pharmacist. Doing so will help keep you on your path to better health.
Papatya Tankut, RPh is vice president of pharmacy affairs for CVS Health.