The Importance of Taking Your Medication As Prescribed

Apr 28, 2023


Alto Pharmacy

Whether used to fight short-term illnesses or to treat chronic physical or mental health issues, medications can be life-saving or life-changing when used appropriately. Unfortunately, medication is only taken as prescribed 50% of the time, in some cases resulting in serious health complications.

Understanding what it means to take a medication as prescribed — and why it’s so important — is a critical first step to following the care plan your doctor has recommended. Below, we share general guidelines for safe and effective medication use as well the tools Alto offers to help you stay on track with treatment.

What does it mean to take a medication as prescribed?

For starters, it’s more than simply taking the medication. Other key aspects include:

  • Taking the full dose of your medication on time.

  • Taking your medication at the time of day that your doctor has instructed you to.

  • In the case of short-term medication use, taking the full course of treatment. For instance, antibiotics are typically prescribed for 7-14 days. You may feel better after several days of treatment, but this doesn’t mean that the infection has been resolved. Taking an antibiotic for less time than directed can lead to a worsening of symptoms or resistance to that particular medication.

  • Following any other instructions from your pharmacist or provider, such as taking your medication with food, on an empty stomach, or several hours after eating. They may also tell you to avoid consuming certain foods or drinks when taking your medication, or engaging in activities that require your full attention, if your medication causes drowsiness.

And why is it important?

Taking a medication as prescribed is essential to experiencing its benefits. Many of the guidelines above are necessary to have the right amount of a medication in your blood. Timing and dosage are so important because they are the main factors that can ensure consistent blood levels of your medication.

With many medications, directions about food and drinks also relate to medication blood levels. There are instances when a food or supplement interacts with a medication, affecting your blood levels of that medication or preventing it from entering your bloodstream altogether.

There are some common known food-medication interactions:

  • Grapefruit and grapefruit juice can prevent your body from breaking down cholesterol-lowering statins, leading to higher blood levels of the medication and a greater risk of side effects.

  • Dairy products may affect the body’s absorption of certain antibiotics. If you are prescribed an antibiotic, ask your pharmacist about potential food-medication interactions.

  • Vitamin K-rich vegetables such as broccoli and spinach can interfere with the effectiveness of the anticoagulant warfarin.

Your provider may also give you instructions to ensure that your medication has minimal, if any, impact on your daily life. For example, medications that increase your energy are typically recommended to take early in the day, while medications that cause drowsiness are typically recommended to take at night.

Staying on track with your medication

There are numerous reasons a medication isn’t taken as prescribed. Fortunately, you can take simple steps like the following to stay on track.

Ask clarifying questions

Understanding the purpose of your medication can help you stay committed to your treatment plan. If you take multiple medications, it’s easy to forget why each one is so important. Never hesitate to ask your provider or pharmacist to clarify what a specific medication is used for — our pharmacists are more than happy to do so via in-app messaging!

Additionally, before starting a new medication, make sure you have the information you need to prevent medication interactions. We suggest asking the following questions:

  • Can I take this medication with other medications?

  • Should I avoid certain foods or drinks when taking this medication?

  • Are there known potential medication interactions? If so, what signs should I watch for?

If you have any concerns after starting treatment, share them with your doctor

Difficulty affording a medication or unpleasant side effects can both lead to skipped doses. If you have any type of concern about a medication, open communication with your doctor is key. They can help you discuss potential changes to your treatment plan, such as exploring an alternative medication. Never stop taking a medication without first consulting your provider.

Find your preferred system for remembering to take your medication

One of the most common reasons people don’t take their medication as prescribed is that they simply forget to. There are many ways to develop a medication routine and avoid missed doses. You may find it helpful to use a daily pill box or link the act of taking your medication with something else you do each day, such as brushing your teeth.

To help you stay on top of your prescriptions, the Alto app offers medication management tools, including custom dose reminders and auto refills. And if you take multiple medications, you can receive all of them in a single, recurring delivery through a free medication bundling service!

The pharmacy care you deserve

Our expert pharmacists can answer any questions you have about medication interactions, side effects, or release right in the Alto app. We also offer same-day delivery and medication management tools like reminders and auto refills to help you stay on track with your treatment.

Reach out any time through secure in-app messaging or by phone at 1-800-874-5881.

This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.