Taking Medications Improperly Can Have Serious Consequences (2022)

Patient Rights


Trisha Torrey

Trisha Torrey

Trisha Torrey is a patient empowerment and advocacy consultant. She has written several books about patient advocacy and how to best navigate the healthcare system.

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Updated on February 23, 2021

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Rochelle Collins, DO

Taking Medications Improperly Can Have Serious Consequences (1)

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Rochelle Collins, DO, is a board-certified family medicine doctor currently practicing in Bloomfield, Connecticut.

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It may seem obvious, even non-negotiable, that if your healthcare provider gives you a prescription, you'll have it filled by your pharmacist and you'll take it as directed; if he or she gives you a referral to a specialist or recommends lifestyle changes, you'll follow through. In fact, a surprising number of people in the United States do not follow through on treatment plans—a problem known as noncompliance or non-adherence.

Taking Medications Improperly Can Have Serious Consequences (3)

Research on Noncompliance

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 125,000 people with treatable ailments die each year in the United States because they do not take their medication properly.

Not taking medication as prescribed can account for up to 50% of treatment failures. The WHO also reports that up to 25% of hospital admissions result from patient noncompliance.

Numerous studies back up the prevalence of patient noncompliance. A 2012 review in the Annals of Internal Medicine reported that 20—30% of medication prescriptions are never filled and that approximately 50% of medications for chronic disease are not taken as prescribed.

Even those at high risk of serious complications often resist following treatment regimens.A 2016 study found that a third of kidney transplant patients don’t take their anti-rejection medications. An estimated 50% of patients with cardiovascular disease and its major risk factors have poor adherence to prescribed medications.

Needless to say, when patients don't follow through with the treatment decisions they have made together with their healthcare providers, it can cause additional problems.They may not get over their sickness or injury. They may get even sicker or injure themselves further—or worse.

Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop put it bluntly: “Drugs don’t work in patients who don’t take them.”

Reasons Patients Don't Comply

Research published in 2011 suggests that some of the main reasons patients do not adhere to treatment plans include:

  • Denial of the problem: Many diseases and conditions are easy to ignore, even when they have been diagnosed. This is particularly true for diseases that are asymptomatic, meaning they don't have noticeable symptoms that bother the patient. For example, if you have diabetes or hypertension (high blood pressure), you may not have symptoms that get in the way of everyday life. You may not even have known you had the condition until it showed up on a routine examination.
  • The cost of the treatment: Your medications and therapies may or may not be covered by insurance, and the more out-of-pocket costs you have, the less likely you are to buy the drugs or make treatment appointments.
  • The difficulty of the regimen: Patients may have trouble following the directions, particularly if they have memory problems or dementia. For example, taking a pill in the middle of the night, or being unable to open a "child-safe" container, may create a barrier to compliance.
  • The unpleasant outcomes or side-effects of the treatment: Any perceived negative— such as an unpleasant taste of medicine, the prick of a needle, or the pain of physical therapy—may keep you from following through. Also, patients may be reluctant to start a medication after reading about the possible side effects.
  • Lack of trust: If for whatever reason, you don't believe your treatment is going to make a difference in your health, you may not be motivated to comply.
  • Apathy: When you don't realize the importance of the treatment, or you don't care if the treatment works or not, you are less likely to comply.
  • Previous experience: Especially in the cases of chronic or repeat conditions, patients will sometimes decide that a treatment didn't work in the past, so they are either reluctant or unwilling to try it again.

What Can Be Done?

Healthcare experts continue to study the reasons behind patient noncompliance and are working to find solutions on their end. If you are a patient and are finding it difficult to adhere to your treatment plan even though you'd like to, here are some things you can do that may help:

  • Ask questions: If you don’t understand something about how to take your medications when to take it or side effects you might experience, ask your healthcare provider or your pharmacist for help. If you think you might have trouble understanding your practitioner or pharmacist, ask a friend or loved one to go with you to listen, help you, and take notes. The FDA has information on how to take medications as prescribed.
  • Get a pill container: Many types of pill containers are available at drugstores. Some are divided into sections for each day of the week and time of the day. Some pharmacists will even prepare blister packs for daily or weekly medications.
  • Keep a "medicine calendar" near your medicine: Make a checkmark every time you take your dose.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if paying for prescription drugs is a problem: Your practitioner may be able to prescribe a generic medication or offer other suggestions to offset the cost of a drug. (Generic drugs can cost 80 to 85% less.) Some pharmaceutical companies also offer assistance programs for those who qualify.
  • Take advantage of technology: Thanks to modern technology, there are a number of devices that have been designed to help patients adhere to a prescribed medication schedule. These include medication reminder pagers and wristwatches, automatic pill dispensers, and even voice-command medication managers. You can also set alarms on your smartphone. Ask your pharmacist for suggestions as to which particular devices may be helpful for you.

If you find yourself tempted not to follow through on your treatment, contact your healthcare provider to share your reasons, and together, to the extent it's possible, work out an alternative you both can agree on. Remember that noncompliance can have dire consequences.

6 Sources

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Kim J, Combs K, Downs J, Tillman F. Medication Adherence: The Elephant in the Room. US Pharm.2018;43(1)30-34.

  2. Viswanathan, M.Interventions to improve adherence to self-administered medications for chronic diseases in the United States: a systematic review.Ann Intern Med.2012;157(11):785-795. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-157-11-201212040-00538

  3. Patzer, R, et al.Medication understanding, non‐adherence, and clinical outcomes among adult kidney transplant recipients.Clinical Transplantation.2016;30(10):1294-1305. doi:10.1111/ctr.12821

  4. Kronish I, Ye S. Adherence to Cardiovascular Medications: Lessons Learned and Future Directions.Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2013;55(6):590-600. doi:10.1016/j.pcad.2013.02.001

  5. Brown MT, Bussell JK. Medication adherence: WHO cares?Mayo Clin Proc. 2011;86(4):304–314. doi:10.4065/mcp.2010.0575

  6. American Heart Association. Taking control of your medications.

By Trisha Torrey
Trisha Torrey is a patient empowerment and advocacy consultant. She has written several books about patient advocacy and how to best navigate the healthcare system.

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What are the consequences of incorrect medications? ›

The range of consequences from medication error effects runs from no notable effects to death. In some cases, it can cause a new condition, either temporary or permanent, such as itching, rashes, or skin disfigurement. Although uncommon, medication errors can result in severe patient injury or death.

What happens if medication is not stored properly? ›

But if medications aren't stored properly they may not work as promised. Exposure to light, humidity, and extreme temperatures can break down both prescription and over-the-counter drugs, making them less effective and – in rare cases – even toxic.

What are 5 examples of common medication errors and their potential consequences? ›

Types of Medication Errors
  • Prescribing.
  • Omission.
  • Wrong time.
  • Unauthorized drug.
  • Improper dose.
  • Wrong dose prescription/wrong dose preparation.
  • Administration errors include the incorrect route of administration, giving the drug to the wrong patient, extra dose, or wrong rate.
Jul 3, 2022

What is the most common cause of medication errors? ›

The most common causes of medication errors are: Poor communication between your doctors. Poor communication between you and your doctors. Drug names that sound alike and medications that look alike.

Why is it important to store medication correctly? ›

Medicines should be stored in a way that means they are safe and will be effective when administered.

What are the importance of proper storage of medicine and medical supplies? ›

Medications Storage

Regardless of its size or capacity, every pharmacy must store medicine effectively. If not stored appropriately, medications can be exposed to varying environmental changes, making them lose their efficacy and potency. If such drugs are ingested, they can be harmful to consumers' health.

Why is it important to keep medication locked away? ›

Combined with common sense measures for storing your medications, securing your medications in a locked cabinet or lock box is the most effective way to prevent accidental poisoning. Plus, there's added peace of mind knowing that you've got the key or combination. 2. Start a good habit.

What is the significance of medication errors? ›

Medication errors have significant implications on patient safety. These errors occur at all stages in medication use: ordering, prescription, dispensing, and administration. Error detection discloses those errors and thus, encourages a safe culture (Montesi & Lechi, 2009).

What happens if a doctor administers wrong medicine to a patient? ›

It is because his negligent act can lead to the death, or any serious harm or injury is caused to the patient which will damage not only the patient but also the reputation of the doctor and the hospital at large.

Talking in your sleep can be disruptive, especially to bed partners. Learn about sleep talking (somniloquy) and its causes, consequences, and treatment.

Parasomnias are abnormal behaviors during sleep.. Sleep talking is considered to be distinct from other vocalizations that can occur during sleep such as catathrenia , a breathing disorder that causes audible groaning, or REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) , which involves a person physically acting out their dreams.. Studies have found that up to 66% of people have experienced episodes of sleep talking, making it one of the most common parasomnias.. That said, it does not occur frequently, with just 17% of people reporting sleep talking episodes in the last three months.. If sleep talking bothers a bed partner or roommate, it may interrupt their sleep and contribute to problems like insomnia or excessive daytime sleepiness.. For people who want to try to limit or eliminate sleep talking episodes, focusing on sleep hygiene may be a helpful starting point.. Sleep hygiene includes a person’s sleep environment and their habits that can affect sleep.. If sleep talking is creating these problems on a regular basis, a focus on sleep hygiene may help their bed partner decrease the frequency of sleep talking episodes.

A Pharmacy Error Could Cause Health Problems or Even Death. Learn How to Protect Your Rights if a Pharmacist Gives You the Wrong Prescription or Dosage Now!

When a pharmacy gives the wrong dosage or dispenses the wrong medical, the effects range from death of a patient, to minor inconveniences.. Call your Doctor Right Away Call the Pharmacy Immediately Do NOT Give the Mis-Filled Medication Under Any Circumstance Save the Unused Medication Save the Bag Save the Receipt Save the Empty Bottle Do NOT Give a Recorded Statement to Anyone Without the Help of a Lawyer. Medication errors are among the most common medical errors, harming at least 1.5 million people every year.. Is the pharmacist really running the pharmacy, or are our medications being dispensed like cheeseburgers?. Another common pharmacy error is that when the pharmacist fills the prescription, they do so with the wrong strength dosage.. On a low level, a medication error may not cause a problem for a patient, but high level errors can result in severe complications for the patient, including death.. Mistakes include frequency of taking the medication, too often or not often enough, how much to take, too much or too little, what not to take with the medication to prevent side effects, or the side effects that may be experienced from the medication.. Pharmacies occasionally fill a prescription that is “contraindicated,” when a pharmacist has been filling a patient’s prescription for a while they should know what two different medications cannot be taken together.. This can happen when a patient sees two different doctors, one doctor for one condition, and another doctor for a different condition and one of the doctors did not know that the patient was taking a certain kind of medicine which cannot be taken with the medication that the doctor just prescribed.. If a pharmacist were to fill both prescriptions without warning the patient or calling the doctor, then this is an unfortunate pharmacy error that they should catch.. This is governed by Florida Administrative Code section 64B16-27.820 Patient Counseling which requires that the pharmacist is to make sure their patient is fully informed about the medication that is being given to them.. But when a pharmacist is too busy to talk with the patient, or the pharmacist is good at asking the questions, but is not really listening to the patient, then a medication error can happen easily.. As a patient, when you are having you or your family’s prescription filled, take the time to ask questions, make sure the pharmacist meets with you to review the medication.. Make sure that you and the pharmacist agree upon what the medical condition is that the medication is supposed to treat.. Then make certain that you and the pharmacist address the strength of the medication being given to you, and how and when the medication is supposed to be taken.

Healthcare provider s prescribe pain-relief patches to help relieve acute and chronic pain. Learn about the varieties and some important warnings.

GARO/PHANIE/Getty Images. Pain patches are prescribed by healthcare providers for patients with various medical conditions.. Healthcare providers may prescribe fentanyl patches for severe, chronic pain, also known by the brand name Duragesic.. For the Flector patch with 1.3% diclofenac epolamine, the manufacturer’s recommended dose is one patch applied to the most painful area twice a day.. Never place a patch in an area for which it is not prescribed, and never use more than one patch at a time unless approved by your healthcare provider.. Overdoses have occurred when more than one patch is used at a time when a patient applies heat to the patch and when a non-patient—such as a child—accidentally comes into contact with a patch.. Yes, pain patches are an effective method of delivery for pain relieving medication.

Potassium citrate is often used as a food additive, but it can also improve heart and bone health, as well as conditions like kidney stones.

While it’s often used as a food additive, it can also improve heart and bone health and help conditions like kidney stones.. But if your diet includes more processed foods, you may not be consuming an adequate amount.. Potassium citrate in particular produces alkalizing effects in the body, helping to balance urinary pH levels.. Additionally, potassium citrate crystallizes stone-forming salts like calcium oxalate, calcium phosphate and uric acid in the bladder.. It also increases urine citrate levels , which lowers the risk of stone formation.. Potassium’s effect on blood pressure and heart rate may help reduce the risk of stroke.. Therefore, it’s important to maintain proper pH balance for bone health, even if your calcium intake is adequate ( 11 ).. In one study, 52 adults supplemented with 0, 2345 or 3519 mg/day of potassium citrate for 6 months.. Summary : Potassium citrate can help prevent kidney stone formation, and may also reduce the risk of a stroke.. Report these side effects to your doctor.

High blood pressure can lead to damaged arteries and raise your risk of heart disease. Find out what you can do to lower your blood pressure.

High blood pressure is a condition that makes your heart work harder to pump blood throughout your body.. High blood pressure (also called hypertension ) occurs when the force of the blood moving through your blood vessels is too high.. Blood pressure is the force that your blood puts on your arteries as it's pumped from the heart.. High blood pressure is not heart disease on its own.. When your blood pressure is high, your heart has to work harder to pump blood out to your body.. High blood pressure is not a heart disease itself, but it is a risk factor for heart conditions and other health problems.. One elevated blood pressure reading does not necessarily mean you will be diagnosed with high blood pressure.. You may also need to have blood work or other tests done to see if your high blood pressure has led to any complications.. High blood pressure is diagnosed by taking your blood pressure measurements over time and seeing if they stay high.. High blood pressure and heart disease cannot always be prevented.. Making health-promoting changes to your lifestyle and learning about your risk factors can help you prevent and manage high blood pressure and avoid heart disease.. High blood pressure occurs when your heart has to pump blood with more force to move through your arteries.. While high blood pressure is not considered a heart disease on its own, having uncontrolled high blood pressure can have serious consequences for your heart, as well as the rest of your body.. High blood pressure and high cholesterol can both lead to the development of arterial problems like atherosclerosis, which in turn increases your risk of heart disease.

You think your doctor did something wrong. You want copies of your records. The office makes you jump through hoops. They still refuse to release your records.

You now want Doctor #2 to have a copy of all your records from Doctor #1.. When you go to another doctor, the office staff will often send a request to your first doctor to get copies of your records.. There are numerous cases where a doctor’s office refuses to hand over a patient’s medical records to the patient.. The doctor's office will never release your original medical chart to you.. If your doctor's office uses electronic medical records, there is no 'original' chart.. You must give your doctor's office permission to give you copies of your medical records.. He might not want you to get copies of your medical records.. It is important that you make it clear to the Department of Health that you requested your medical records from your doctor’s office, followed the appropriate protocol outlined for making that request and yet your doctor’s office has repeatedly not honored his obligation to release your medical records.. On the sixth day her husband needed to be transferred to another hospital for treatment as his condition had become so dire.. Without Mr. Holliday’s complete medical records the second hospital would not be able to properly medicate him.. So what happened with the Hollidays?


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