Is it time to take your medicine?
Is it time to take your medicine? iStockphoto.com
Here's a sad medical fact: Only about half of people take their prescription medicines as directed.
When drug experts ask why that's so, people's excuses run the gamut from "It's too expensive" to "I didn't feel sick anymore so I stopped." Though it hasn't been officially noted, "The dog ate it" has probably been used too, and who knows, it may even be true.
Some people lay some of the blame on confusing drug labels. The U.S. Pharmacopeia, a nonprofit that sets quality and safety standards for drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration, has a proposal to simplify and clarify all that tiny type on the pill bottle.
Although anyone may stop taking their cholesterol-fighting statin, companies like Express Scripts that manage the drug benefits for employers and insurers put a lot of energy into trying to figure out who's likely to get out of the medication habit and why.
Among the many factors that make it more likely someone will have trouble with medication adherence? Having kids under the age of 18 at home and, for men, having a female doctor, says Bob Nease, chief scientist for Express Scripts. Go figure.
You don't have to wait for clearer pill bottle labels or drug benefit manager nagging to take your medicine. Express Scripts' research shows that the following do-it-yourself tips also help patients remember to pop their pills:
- Take your pills at the same time that you do something else regularly, like brush your teeth.
- If cost is a problem, talk to your doctor about other options, including generics. "For many classes of drugs, there's going to be a cheaper one available," says Nease.
- Also on the cost front, check for industry-funded assistance programs that provide free or reduced-cost prescription drug to financially strapped patients.
- Use a mail-order pharmacy rather than picking up prescriptions at your local drug store. Minimizing opportunities to procrastinate improves adherence by 8 percentage points, says Nease. (Of course, a tip like this plays right into the sweet spot of Express Scripts' business, and the encouragement of the local pharmacist may be more up your alley.)
- Sign up for automatic refills, another effective save-you-from yourself strategy