One in Four Canadians Report not Having Taken Medication Properly

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A national survey conducted in January by Pharmasave – Canada’s leading community pharmacy – shows that 26 percent of the more than 10,000 respondents admit to having taken medication differently than prescribed or stopping to take it without consulting their doctor or pharmacist.

In response to the survey results, Pharmasave has launched a public education campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of not taking medication as directed.

“The number of Canadians not adhering to medication is concerning and brings with it potentially serious consequences, especially for those with chronic conditions,” said Jaspreet Chager, Senior Manager, Pharmacy Innovation with Pharmasave. “This can include worsening medical conditions, complications and increased hospitalizations, which is especially concerning at a time when our health care system is already burdened with the pandemic.”

Even before COVID-19, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the rise of chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, chronic respiratory diseases and cancer was a “slow-motion” disaster contributing to about 70 percent of deaths globally. “Heading into the third wave of the pandemic, there’s concern about the disruption in usual chronic care treatment, so it’s more important than ever to be adherent with medications,” Chager said.

Of those surveyed, only 14 percent said they have been more diligent with taking their prescribed medications during the pandemic. Top reasons cited include wanting to be in top health since they are at greater risk if they contract COVID-19 due to a pre-existing condition (62 percent) and finding it easier to remember to take their medication since they are always at home (40 percent).

For respondents who reported not having taken their long-term medication properly, 38 percent said they occasionally forgot to take doses of their medication, while 21 percent forgot to take the medication altogether. Others indicated the medicine made them feel sick (24 percent) or were too expensive (11 percent), or that they felt better, so didn’t see the need to continue (14 percent).

Almost a quarter of those surveyed admitted to not having filled or refilled their prescription at some point, reasoning that the medicine was too expensive or not covered by their drug plan or insurance (38 percent), that they didn’t think it was necessary (33 percent), or that they were afraid of side effects (22 percent).

What can help ensure better adherence to prescriptions, regardless of the pandemic? Pharmasave offers these tips:

Rely on smart packaging. Ask your pharmacist to blister pack your medications for you. Blister packs are pre-made bubble packs with designated sealed compartments that sort medications by day or time of day, such as morning, noon, afternoon, and bedtime. You can also use dosettes, small containers with a window for each day or time of day. Both of these handy packages make it easy to tell which medications should be taken at what times, and let you keep track of your doses.

Use reminders. The alarm on your watch, mobile device, cell phone or clock can alert you when it’s time for your next dose. Many pharmacies, including Pharmasave, also have mobile apps you can use to set reminders, and some offer reminder services by phone or email. Keeping track of your doses on a chart or calendar can do the trick as well.

Keep it simple. If you’re taking pills more than once a day, talk to your pharmacist about a medication review. Explore if there’s a treatment you can use only once a day or see if you can switch to a combination product containing both medications in a single pill. Studies show it’s easier to remember your medication if you take it once a day rather than more frequently.  

Make it a habit. Take their medication at the same time as something else you do regularly, such as brushing your teeth in the morning or at night. Before you choose an activity, check with your pharmacist or doctor to see if your medication should be taken with or without food and whether it’s better taken at a certain time of day.
Speak to your pharmacist. As frontline healthcare professionals who specialize in medication, set up an appointment with your pharmacist – by phone, video or in-person – to review your prescriptions and come up with an adherence plan that’s best suited to your needs and lifestyle. Pharmasave, for example, has a MedAlign program that makes it easier for people to stick with their medications by synchronizing their prescriptions to be refilled on the same day, provide blister packaging to ensure no doses are missed and set medication reviews and reminders. Pharmacists can also suggest ways to minimize side effects and reduce costs of medication.

“In spite of the pandemic, pharmacies have made access to medication as easy as possible, including home deliveries and curbside pick-up – another step in pharmacists’ efforts to help people take their medications properly,” Chager said.

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