Mature woman looking at her medications

Following directions: two words we associate with success. And yet 50 percent of Americans don’t follow directions when taking medication.1 Share this with those in your care to keep them safe and avoid unnecessary hospitalizations and potentially death.

Some forget to take a dose. Others don’t think their medication is working, so they don’t take the directions seriously. Some people take fewer doses than prescribed in order to save money. And others dread the side effects of their medication so much that they avoid taking the medication altogether.

Can you relate? If so, consider this: The success of your medication relies on you to take it correctly—as failure to do so can cause some serious damage.

Risky Business

Medication adherence (or taking your medication as directed) is vital to treating illnesses and preventing further complications. For example, you must finish antibiotics completely, even if you start to feel better sooner, because bacteria are likely to still be alive in your body. If those germs multiply and spread, a new strain of resistance germs may make you sick again.

Nonadherence to medication for chronic conditions is even more dangerous. If you have high blood pressure, for instance, taking medication incorrectly puts you at risk for stroke, heart disease, and kidney failure.

Set Yourself Up for Success

Luckily, there’s a lot you can do to better follow your medication’s directions:

  • Cut costs. If paying for prescription medications is a problem, ask your health care provider if there’s a generic option. Generic drugs use the same active ingredients but can cost 30 to 80 percent less.
  • Find routine. Keep a written or computerized schedule to remind you when it’s time to take your medication—and store your medications in a place where you’ll notice them.
  • Don’t split pills. Several medications are not FDA-approved to be split. The actual dose in each half of these pills often varies, so while the two halves may look the same, they may not contain equal amounts of medicine. Always check with your provider before splitting a pill.
  • Talk it out. Meet with your health care provider and share what’s preventing you from following your medication’s directions. If you’re experiencing side effects, he or she can help you find an alternative.

Most of all, motivate yourself by thinking about why you’re on this medication. Is it because you want to be healthy and have a better quality of life? In that case, your medication’s directions may just be the most important ones you’ll follow.

Encourage medication adherence while reducing hospital readmissions. 




1 Why You Need To Take Your Medications as Prescribed or Instructed. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Accessed November 11, 2020.