Frequently Asked Questions
What is medication adherence?
Medication adherence is defined by the World Health Organization as “the extent to which a person’s behaviour – taking medication, following a diet, and/or executing lifestyle changes, corresponds with agreed recommendations from a health care provider.” (1)
In simple words, it means sticking to your medication regimen. Adhering to medication is taking the medication as directed by a healthcare professional – whether taken in pill form, inhaled, injected, or applied topically. Not taking medication as prescribed is called non-adherence.
What is the goal of the campaign?
The goal of Script Your Future is to raise awareness among consumers and their family caregivers about the importance of taking medication as prescribed as a vital first step toward better health outcomes. It encourages patients and healthcare professionals to better communicate about ways to improve medication adherence.
Why don’t people take their medicine as directed?
Taking medication correctly may seem like a simple or personal matter, but non-adherence is a complicated and common problem. Upwards of three out of four Americans report that they do not always take their medicine as directed (2). Often there is no single reason someone does not take their medicine as directed, but rather a combination of reasons. These reasons include:
- Cost of medicines
- Not filling a new prescription or refilling an existing prescription when you are supposed to
- Stopping a medicine before the instructions say you should
- Taking more or less of the prescribed medicine
- Taking the medicine at the wrong time
- Lack of belief in the medicine’s effectiveness, being unsure the medicine is working
- Fear of side effects
- Trouble taking the medicine (especially with injections or inhalers)
What if the cost of my medicine is a problem?
Consumers should check with their health plans about their prescription drug coverage, and make sure they are getting the most out of it. They should also check with their healthcare provider or pharmacist about whether a medicine is available as a generic. Many pharmaceutical manufacturers have programs to help patients who need assistance paying for their prescription medicines, regardless of their insurance status.
Here are a few resources to assist with the cost of prescription drugs:
National Council on Aging website that helps seniors with limited income and resources make the best decisions about the public and private programs that are available to help them save money
on prescription drugs and other healthcare costs.
Helps underinsured people with life-threatening, chronic and rare diseases get the medications and treatment they need by paying for their out-of-pocket costs.
Consumers Union, the group that publishes Consumer Reports, picks the best drugs to treat certain conditions based on how well the drugs work, safety, side effects and cost. Also available in Spanish.
Some people with limited resources and income also are eligible for Extra Help to pay for the costs – monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co-payments – related to a Medicare prescription drug plan.
Why should I care about medication adherence?
Millions of Americans are diagnosed with at least one long-term health condition, like asthma or diabetes. Studies have shown that average medication adherence rates range approximately from 40-80% (2). It is likely you or someone you know has one of these conditions and is struggling to take their medicine as directed—and this can have serious health consequences.
Approximately 125,000 people die each year in the United States because of not taking medicine as directed (3). About 30-70% of medicine-related hospital admissions in the United States are linked to non-adherence, with costs at approximately $100 billion a year (2).
What can patients and family caregivers do if they have problems with medicine or questions about medication adherence?
If patients have any issues with their medicine that keep them from taking it as directed, they should start by talking to a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, nurse practitioner, or other healthcare professional to learn about options or tools that can help. They can also check our Tools page to find resources to help.
What can healthcare professionals do about medication adherence?
If you are a healthcare professional (HCP) and would like help talking to your patients about taking their medications as prescribed, our Tools page to find resources to help.
Why is the National Consumers League leading this effort?
As America’s oldest consumer organization, the National Consumers League has advocated for consumer interests since 1899, providing government, businesses, and other organizations with the consumer’s perspective on a range of concerns – including medication information. From this position as an advocacy organization, NCL led the charge on organizing over 130 diverse stakeholders who reached consensus on a campaign plan. The National Consumers League continues to direct and lead the campaign, with ongoing input, guidance, and support from Committed Partners.
What does it mean to be a Stakeholder or Committed Partner of the campaign? How do I become one?
Stakeholders are any organizations, agencies, and companies that have an interest in improving health and want to help improve medication adherence. Committed Partners are stakeholders that have officially signed on to demonstrate their support for the campaign, whether by contributing in-kind through participation in working groups, providing expert input, and/or supporting the campaign through financial contributions.
Campaign Partners also realize valuable benefits from their participation, such as helping to shape the campaign and gaining access to messaging and materials for distribution to their constituencies.
If your organization is interested in joining the campaign, please contact NCL at email@example.com.
(1) World Health Organization, 2003. Adherence to Long-term therapies, Evidence for Action. Geneva, Switzerland.
(2) McCarthy R. The price you pay for the drug not taken. Business Health 1998;16:27-33. 3.
(3) Osterberg L, Blaschke T. Adherence to medication. N Engl J Med 2005;353:487-97
(4) Benjamin, Regina. Medication Adherence: Helping Patients Take Their Medicines As Directed.
Surgeon General’s Perspectives. Public Health Reports. 2012. Volume 127.