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What is medication adherence, and why does it matter?

You might hear the terms adherence or compliance used in relation to taking medications. This just describes whether a patient takes his or her medication as prescribed. This is actually a far more important issue than it may seem on the surface. You might wonder if it really matters that much if a patient skips doses or doesn’t fill a prescription. The answer is yes.

According to the National Consumers League:

  • One in three patients never fills prescriptions,
  • Poor adherence is a significant source of medication-related hospital admissions, and
  • Nonadherence creates $300 billion in costs per year.

In essence, individuals pay a price in greater health risks, and society pays a higher price in absorbing costs.

If you are a heart disease patient, medication adherence is a critical part of preventing either a first or recurrent cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack. Despite this, according to a journal article published in 2010 in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation, nonadherence to medications among cardiovascular disease patients is greater than 60%.

If you have concerns related to a prescription, speak with your prescribing physician or your pharmacist. They can help talk through any concerns with you and refer you to resources that can help with common adherence barriers, such as cost, forgetfulness, or troubling side effects.


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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.