Science and Technology News

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Dr. Is In - Take as Directed

An enduring problem in modern medicine is that many patients do not take their medications as directed by their doctor. This is known as poor “medication adherence.”

If you are taking medication for a serious chronic condition, missing a dose can cause your symptoms to flare up. With multiple medications, not following your doctor’s instructions could lead to dangerous drug interactions or side effects. Even over-the-counter medicines have risk as taking too much can be life threatening.

According to the National Consumer League (NCL), poor medication adherence contributes to an estimated 125,000 preventable deaths a year and billions of dollars in avoidable medical costs. The NCL reports one in three Americans never fills their prescriptions, and poor adherence contributes to a third of hospital admissions.

Poor medication adherence can be an especially acute problem for members of the military who bear an added responsibility for staying healthy as a matter of national defense.

There are many reasons people don’t follow their doctor’s orders about medication. It can be as simple as not understanding the directions or forgetting to take a pill, or as serious as intentionally over-medicating. Additionally, patients may not understand the consequences of not following their doctor’s instructions. Some of the most common types of poor medication adherence are:

 •Not filling a new prescription or failing to refill an existing prescription
•Stopping a medication before directed by your doctor
•Taking too much or too little of a prescribed medication
•Taking your medication at the wrong time

There are simple ways to practice good medication adherence. It starts with personal responsibility. Talk to your doctor and pharmacist to understand the medications prescribed. Write down their instructions and ask questions if you don’t totally understand them. If your physician prescribes a brand name medication, ask about a less expensive generic alternative and consider using low-cost TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery for your maintenance medications (

TRICARE is a partner with the NCL in the “Script Your Future” campaign, whose goal is patient education and awareness. You can learn about the “Script Your Future” campaign and find tools to improve your medication adherence and start conversations with your doctor at

Put yourself in the best position to be healthy by practicing good medication adherence. Find more information about managing your medications by visiting

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