Medication Adherence: 3 Reasons Patients Don’t Take Their Meds

Alexis Selzler About The Author

Apr 14, 2017 11:12:27 AM

WinRx Web Refill Adherence Score Card 

How many of your patients refill their prescription as often as they should?

According to this article from a year ago, 50 percent of prescriptions are not taken as intended by the prescriber. That’s a large percentage of your patients who are failing to be adherent to the medication regimens set forth by their prescribing physician.

As pharmacists you’ve been put in a position that makes compliance your responsibility. With star ratings and DIR fees affecting your reimbursements, you can’t afford not to pay attention to medication adherence. However, when you first pull a report of your non-adherent patients, it can seem like an uphill battle.

There are many possible reasons patients are non-adherent. Even if you do find out what the problem is, how you can you help to solve their problem and keep their business?  We’ve gathered some ideas on this subject to help you.

3 Reasons Patients Don’t Take Their Medications and How to Help


Unfortunately, some medications are too expensive for patients, even with insurance coverage. And if we’re being totally honest, prescribers don’t always do the best job of warning their patients about costs of medication. That job usually falls to you when they arrive to pick up medications and it turns out they can’t afford them.

There are three ways to handle this issue:

  1. Offer them a generic. This is generally a great solution if there is a generic available, but that’s not always the case.
  2. Search for a coupon. Most brand name medications have manufacturer coupons. If a drug rep hasn’t given you any for that particular medication, you can call them or find one online.
  3. Instruct them to talk to their prescriber. Sometimes, you’re left with no option but to have a patient talk with his or her prescriber about a different medication or regimen that may better fit him or her financially.

One more, but much less likely, way to address this is a compounded medication. Some expensive medications can be compounded from other drugs that already have generic alternatives. If your pharmacy already works in compounding, you may be able to offer them a solution that no big box retailer can.

Side Effects

We’ve all seen those drug commercials that quickly list side effects as an afterthought, some of which are worse than the problem that the medication is designed to treat. All patients respond to medication differently, so while one patient may react poorly to a medication, another might have no problems.

In order to address this you must communicate with your patients, especially those on maintenance medications that are tracked for adherence ratings. Your pharmacy software should be able to help you identify patients who are non-compliant. A medication review would identify any side effects that they’re experiencing, allowing you to counsel them on other options.

Another alternative to address this issue is genetic testing. Pharmacogenetics tests a patient’s DNA, and based on their genetic makeup decides which drugs would be most effective as well as have the least adverse effects. If your pharmacy is heavily focused on clinical engagement, this may be a good solution for you.


This is labeled “inconvenience” only because it’s a much cleaner title than “all those other things that keep them from coming to get their prescriptions.” In truth, people forget or they aren’t able to make it in to the pharmacy for one reason or another. Luckily, there are many tools that you can utilize to make it as convenient as possible for patients to fill their medications.

  • Text and Email Reminders: This is a great way to ensure that your patients don’t forget to refill their medications. They will be notified via phone or email when it’s time to request a refill. Also, make sure that they have a convenient way to request a refill on that prescription, like an online portal or refill app.
  • Medication Synchronization Program: Some of your patients on maintenance meds are taking 5 or more different prescriptions a day. It’s understandable that they would forget to request a refill until they look down in their bottle and find it empty, and by then it’s too late. A medication sync program allows them to pick up all their prescriptions at the same time (as long as their prescriptions are for the same day supply). You might even choose to go the extra mile and package their prescriptions in bubble packs.
  • Prescription Delivery Service: Some patients aren’t able to come pick up their medications, due to a handicap or inability to drive. They may have to work around someone else’s schedule to pick up their prescriptions, which can sometimes leave them without the medications they need. A delivery service could accommodate their needs and help your pharmacy ratings.
  • Mail Order Service: This is an excellent alternative to delivery. If you don’t have the resources to hire a delivery driver, try mailing prescriptions to patients who can’t make it in to the pharmacy. Your pharmacy software may even have convenient ways to integrate this into your workflow to make it as efficient as possible.

The Outliers

I believe the saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”

You can pull out all the stops and offer to hand deliver their prescriptions yourself, but you will always have some patients who are non-adherent. However, taking that 50 percent and turning it into 10 percent would have a great effect on the healthcare industry, your community, and your patients.

Using the methods described here, you can greatly decrease your number of non-compliant patients, improving your reimbursements and decreasing DIR fees.


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