Simple Methods to Improve Adherence

By David D. Pope, PharmD, CDE

Did you know that a patient living with diabetes visits the pharmacy 48 percent more than the average customer?* As independent pharmacists, we have a huge opportunity (and responsibility) to assist our diabetes patients in improving adherence with taking their medications.

At Barney’s Pharmacy in Augusta, Ga., we use several methods to improve medication adherence. Quality counseling at the time of the first dispensed prescription is one of the keys to success. For example, if a pharmacist effectively explains to a patient that metformin may cause stomach upset and that it usually improves with time, how do you think that patient will react once those symptoms occur? I would submit that the patient would be much more likely to stay the course and trust the pharmacist in continuing to take the medication instead of reducing the scheduled doses.

Patients living with diabetes may also struggle with keeping up with multiple medications. Try creating a simple “My Meds” form, in which a member of your staff writes down an overview of their current medications. At a minimum, the My Meds form should include the name of each medication (brand and generic preferred), the usual directions, and the time of day they should take the medication. Encourage your patients to use this form when ordering refills to ensure they aren’t overlooking any essential medications.

Also attempt to get the patients’ refills on a once-monthly schedule. Many patients will neglect to refill their medications if they have to take multiple trips to the pharmacy each month. Finally, consider using a prescription packaging system (such as blister packages) or medication timers for elderly patients living alone.

From the improved outcomes of the patients to an improved bottom line of the pharmacy, adherence is worth your investment of time and energy. Pharmacies that do so will set themselves apart from the competition and will begin competing on a different playing field!

*NielsenHealth Ailment Panels

Reprinted with permission from National Community Pharmacists Association in the November 2010 issue of America’s Pharmacist. For more information about NCPA, visit

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