How Pharmacists can Improve Adherence to Medication

By Florence Nishimwe

According to the World Health Organization, adherence is the extent to which a person’s behavior (e.g. taking medications, following and/or executing lifestyle changes) corresponds with agreed-upon recommendations from health care providers.

Taking medications correctly may seem like a simple or personal matter, but not taking medication as directed is a complicated and common problem.  For example, from a review done by Beena Jimmy and Jimmy Jose in 2011, approximately 50% of patients in developed countries do not take their medications as prescribed. This can be resolved by every healthcare provider’s action especially pharmacists. Clear instructions provided by healthcare professionals increase knowledge about the importance of treatment and reduce the risks of non-adherence to medications.

“Drugs don’t work in patients who don’t take them”- C. Everett Koop, MD, former US Surgeon General

Adhering to medication is critical in determining therapeutic outcomes. Having patients at the center of our profession should be our priority as pharmacists. Pharmacists should be involved in collaborating with patients and other healthcare professionals to address this problem of non-adherence through patient counseling. We should also encourage patients to reach out to us in case they experience problems with their medicines. Such problems may include adverse reactions to the medicines. Adverse reactions are one of the main causes of non-adherence. This would be a  follow-up to find out if patients are taking the medicines. It won’t guarantee 100% adherence but it will greatly help in encouraging patients in taking their medicines.

Remember, if patients don’t take their medicines as directed, it could put their present and future health at risk. In turn, this will surely affect all of us.


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The writer is a B. Pharm graduate of University of Rwanda and a member of IPSF AfRO Media and Publications Subcommittee.

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