5 Easy Ways Pharmacists Can Improve Medication Adherence

Pharmacists play a critical role in helping patients adhere to therapy.

Medication adherence is a major hurdle to achieving disease control and preventing adverse events. Adherence is crucial for patients with all conditions, especially among patients taking costly and complex specialty drugs. Missing a dose of a treatment could mean a patient with multiple sclerosis experiences a relapse or triggers disease progression for a patient with cancer.

Although numerous smartphone-based technologies have emerged to help patients track their doses and remind them to refill their prescriptions, pharmacists still play an integral role in improving medication adherence, according to an analysis by Johns Hopkins Medicine.

The CDC recently made several recommendations on how pharmacists can improve adherence, including understanding what is driving non-adherence.

Achieving optimal medication adherence can be further complicated for patients who are taking multiple therapies that have drastically different dosing and timing requirements, according to Johns Hopkins.

“When you’re using several medications, be proactive,” said Jessica Merrey, PharmD, clinical pharmacy specialist at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and certified geriatric pharmacist. “Taking medications as directed by your doctor, getting refills on time, and staying alert to side effects and interactions all help keep you healthy.”

Here are 5 recommendations for ways in which pharmacists can help patients better adhere to their treatment regimen:

1. Suggest patients only use 1 pharmacy

This approach ensures that all patient records are at a single location, which can help pharmacists mitigate adverse events, according to the article. With each new prescription, the risk of drug-drug interactions increases. It also allows pharmacists to better track patient progress over time and potentially guide new therapeutic recommendations.

2. Recommend the use of pill dispensers or reminders

A standard pill box with compartments for each day of the week is a great way to organize medications. The visual element of the pill box can tell the patient instantly if they did not take their prescription drugs that day.

Merrey said that patients can also post a reminder to their refrigerator or make it part of their daily routine, according to the article.

3. Discuss the option of early refills whenever possible

For some patients, getting to the pharmacy may present a barrier to medication adherence. If medication refills are all scheduled for the same time of the month or every 90 days, patients may be less likely to forget to refill their prescription, according to the article. Pharmacists play a critical role in medication synchronization.

4. Encourage patients to keep a medication list

Patients should keep a list of medications they take, including the name of the drug, the dosage, when they take it, and what condition it is for, according to the article. Pharmacists should advise patients to give a copy to their physician and loved ones in case of an emergency. This can allow providers to quickly determine whether side effects or interactions may occur.

5. Give yearly “brown bag” medication reviews

Patients should round up all of the medications they take—including OTC drugs and dietary supplements—for an annual review at the pharmacy. Pharmacists can make sure that patients are on the right medications and are not taking OTC treatments or vitamins that may diminish the efficacy of important therapies.