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The importance of taking your medication as prescribed, explained

Dani Li
July 11, 2022

When you are prescribed medicine, the doctor will typically provide instructions on when you should take it. But just how important is it to take your medication on time, what happens if you forget, and what do you do if you have forgotten to take a dose?

Is medication non-adherence a common problem?

If you find yourself forgetting to take your medication, you are certainly not alone. When speaking about medication non-adherence, Research Officer of Canteen Australia, Dr. Xiomara Skrabal, who has a PhD in Psycho-oncology (Digital Health Medication Adherence), says,

Research shows that approximately half of the people who take medications for chronic conditions (such as diabetes, hypertension, etc.) experience issues with adhering to their medical prescriptions.”

For cancer, specifically,

The most common reason for non-adherence is forgetting to take the medication. More than one-third of the people who take cancer medication forget to take one or more doses,” says Dr. Skrabal. This can happen more commonly when people change their routines, for example, when they dine outside or travel.

The second most common reason is side effects. Many of the medications used to manage cancer, including oral chemotherapy, can cause a number of unwanted side effects. The third most common reason is a lack of knowledge about the medication and treatment. Research shows that many people find it difficult to understand the labels of cancer medications and to remember the name and the prescribed doses of their medications,” adds Dr. Skrabal.

What can happen if you don’t take your medication as prescribed?

Dr. Xiomara Skrabal says that when it comes to cancer medication specifically,

taking cancer medication as prescribed by the doctor is important for the medication to be effective and to avoid complications.

When people do not adhere to their prescriptions, they are at risk of experiencing higher toxicity, health complications, relapse, more frequent and longer hospitalizations, and with some medications early death.”

For some chronic conditions (including cancer), symptoms may be mild or non-existent. It's easy to forget you have the condition and even easier to forget to take your medications. Even though some conditions are silent, this doesn’t mean they aren’t serious. Taking your medication as prescribed it’s the best way to stay healthy.

Some people find that the side effects of the medication are worse than the symptoms of their condition, and intentionally skip their doses. However, it’s important to it is important to talk to your doctor to find ways to manage your side-effects without compromising your treatment.

What do I do if I’ve accidently missed a dose?

Depending on the medication that you have missed, and how long it’s been since you should have taken your dose, it might be best to either skip the dose all together, or take the missed dose straight away.

Warning: Taking more doses of some types of oral chemotherapy can cause severe side effects. Please speak with doctor or pharmacist about what to do if you miss a dose. Each medication has Consumer Medicines Information leaflet which can be found in the medication box or available to view online or via the MedAdvisor App. This will include information about what to do if you miss a dose.

How to remember to take your medications

Dose administration aids

Dose administration aids can include things like a pillbox that allows you to set out your medications for each day of the week. Your local pharmacy can also help with packaging your medications into sachets or webster packs, so that you don’t need to worry about sorting it out yourself. You simply pick up your pre-packed medications once a week, fortnight or month from the pharmacy. It is also helpful to set up an alarm to remind you at the specific times during the day to take your doses.

Make it part of your daily routine

Trigger taking your medication with a daily routine, such as brushing your teeth, eating breakfast or getting ready for bed. It also helps to keep your medication near where you normally practice your routine, such as next to your toothbrush, by your toaster or on your bedside table. When choosing your medication routine, be sure to check if your medication should be taken on a full or empty stomach.

Digital solutions

Research shows that digital nudges that remind patients to take their medication helps improve medication adherence, and is a scalable solution to a very common problem that costs the healthcare system hundreds of billions of dollars every year.

The MedAdvisor app connects you to your local pharmacy to order and manage your medication so that you can feel more in control of your medication. Trusted by over 2 million Australians, the app allows you to see a full list of your medications, with automated reminders to let you know when it’s time to fill your scripts and take your doses. If you are caring for others, MedAdvisor can also come in handy. You can manage medication and prescriptions for kids, elderly parents and other family members all in one place. To get started on developing a medication routine with effective reminders, download the MedAdvisor app or read more about MedAdvisor at our blog.

MedAdvisor Canteen Official Partner

Canteen is Australia’s leading not-for-profit organisation that provides support to cancer patients between the ages of 12-25 and their families. Their aim is to be in every young Australian’s corner when cancer crashes into their worlds, assisting them and their loved ones with support and treatment programs that range from counselling to online support to advocacy events. Part of ensuring this support is being at the forefront of technical and medical innovation to better enhance treatment for patients and families, which is why Canteen and MedAdvisor partner to support cancer patients (and their caregivers) so that medication adherence is one less thing that individuals and families have to worry about when it comes to treatment.

Watch our below video to hear from Dr. Xiomara Skrabal and Cancer patient Nathan and his Mum and carer, Nicole. 

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