Three Reasons for Medication Nonadherence

Friday May 3, 2019

Photo of Automatic Pill Dispenser with green plant

It’s not a lie that majority of Americans are prescribed medications. In fact, a recent study conducted by the Mayo Clinic shows that about 70% of the nation is taking prescription medication. However, 50% of those people are not taking their medication correctly. When an individual doesn’t take their medication as prescribed, it is known as medication nonadherence (MNA). The reasons for medication nonadherence vary, but today we are going to cover the three most common reasons.

There have been numerous studies to figure out why people don’t follow their prescriptions. In 2011, Express Scripts ran a study with 600,000 patients to learn the core causes. Of course, each person is different and there are situational factors that interfere with a person taking their medication. As a general rule, these were the three core reasons for nonadherence: forgetfulness, cost, clinical concerns.

Forgetfulness

Of the 600,000 in the study, 69% of patients didn’t take their medication due to forgetfulness. Some patients simply forget to their medication. Once a person forgets one or two times, then their habit is broken. Therefore, their entire medication regime is thrown off. Once their routine is broken, then they eventually start to forget about their medication completely.

It’s not just about the physical act of swallowing the pill. There is also the task of getting the prescription refilled with the pharmacy and having to call the doctor to order more refills. Life is busy. It’s stressful. Having to go pick up a prescription after a long day at work isn’t ideal. Why go sit in traffic to grab a prescription when you could put our feet up and grab a glass of wine instead? The answer? One can save your life and the other can’t. Trust me I get it—just yesterday I was annoyed that I had to go to CVS to pick up my prescription after work, but I still did it.

Cost

After forgetfulness, comes cost. 16% of patients didn’t follow their prescription due to cost. It’s no secret that medication and medical treatment isn’t cheap. Some patients cannot afford the medication, therefore, to decrease the cost they will reduce their dosage intake without a healthcare professional’s consent. By doing this they won’t have to pay for their prescription as often because they are able to use the medication for a longer period of time. Brilliant, right? 

Wrong.

When we don’t take the medication as prescribed, there are side effects. The most obvious is that the medication will not perform to its highest ability, which means that you will not be performing at your highest ability either. A more serious side effect is death. In 2018, medication nonadherence lead to 125,000 preventable deaths. You are more likely to die from medication nonadherence than homicide. And don’t forget about the $300 billion in avoidable healthcare costs. Annually. Not every decade or in the history of medication… each year. It’s ironic that people don’t follow their prescription due to price, but it actually ends up making healthcare more expensive. Research shows that a 10% improvement in adherence reduces healthcare costs by 29%.

Clinical Concerns

The third reason, coming in at 15% of the patients in the study, is clinical concerns. Clinical concerns include the numerous side effects that a medication has…did that say possibility of stroke?! Alongside concerns of side effects, is wondering if the medication is actually working. Medications typically don’t start working within the first day or two or maybe even week. Therefore, patients will get frustrated and stop taking the pill because why take something if it isn’t benefiting them? An added layer to medication not working, is if the patient doesn’t trust their provider. If the medication doesn’t seem to be working the patient won’t trust their healthcare professional, which leads them to be more nonadherent in the future.

Solutions

The thing with finding a solution to medication nonadherence is that it is complicated…. a medical solution being complicated, really? There isn’t a one size fits all solution for this problem. Each person has their own reasons for not following their prescription, therefore, coming up with one solution just won’t work. Patients need to learn what works best for them.

Some companies are trying to battle the issue by creating products called smart bottles. There are numerous different brands, but the goal of the product is for the bottle cover to give visual and audible reminders to patients to take their medications. With some of the bottles, there are phone applications that allow the patient’s healthcare provider to monitor the adherence level. This creates a level of accountability. Additionally, some of the bottles include cellular connectivity so that individuals don’t have to connect to Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to use the bottle.

If you have more than just one medication and don’t want several bottles to manage, there are companies that have pill dispensers. I will explain a little bit about the GMS Automatic Pill Dispenser, as that is the one I know about, but as always do your own research to determine which solution would work best for you!

 

Automatic Pill Dispenser being used to decrease nonadherence

The Automatic Pill Dispenser is a 28-compartment pill organizer. The organizer pairs with the ZayaCare App on Android or iOS, which allows you to be notified on your phone when it is time to take a medication. If you’re not a fan of having notifications on your phone, the alarm will also sound and lights will display on the organizer when it is time to take your medications. Head over to our website to learn more.

Resources:

Linked below are some helpful articles that I used if you are interested in learning more! As always, if you have any questions about your medication management or what to research to form your own solution please reach out via the comments, social media, or email. I will be here to guide you on your health journey!

P.S. Don’t stress out if the first method isn’t your solution. There are many solutions out there. Get creative and find something that will stick for you!

Crowe, M. (2018, July 6). Sampling of Available Smart Bottles. Retrieved May 2, 2019, [Go to PharmacyTimes]

L., J. (2016, May 16). 15 Frightening Stats on Medication Adherence (Plus Infographic). Retrieved May 2, 2019, [Go to Pillsy]

Rhodes, C. (2017, July 14). Three Reasons for Nonadherence. Retrieved May 2, 2019, [Go to Managed Healthcare Executive]

Kiana Eystad

Author: Kiana Eystad

Kiana Eystad provides insight into health, wellness, and diabetic topics. With a background in Marketing and Communication Studies from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities she explores serious topics with a warm and charming wit.