Overcoming Barriers to Medication Adherence: Side Effects
This is the sixth installation of our “Overcoming Barriers to Medication Adherence” blog series. Read our introductory blog post to learn the common characteristics of medication non-adherence and how to identify the patient-level barriers to adherence.
Experiencing negative side effects, or even the fear of perceived side effects, may lead to medication non-adherence. In a recent Twitter poll, Health Dialog asked consumers which negative side effects would make them stop taking their medications as prescribed:
- 38% said weight gain
- 34% said nausea/upset stomach
- 19% said dizziness/fatigue
- 9% said skin irritation
When coaching patients on how to overcome this particular barrier, Health Dialog’s medication adherence team emphasizes the importance of taking medications as prescribed and encourages patients to speak with their provider or pharmacist to discuss possible solutions (such as taking a lower dose of the prescription, taking it at a different time of the day, or switching to an alternative medication).
The timing of this type of coaching intervention is key to its effectiveness. According to the FDA, the most optimal time to discuss potential side effects with patients is when they fill a prescription for the first time. This approach helps alleviate the immediate concerns a patient may have about the medication’s side effects and may help set expectations for what the patient could experience. A “first fill” coaching call can positively impact the patient’s medication-taking behavior from the beginning (before bad habits are formed) by educating him or her on the benefits of proper use and minimizing any negative perceptions associated with side effects. First fill calls help set expectations and teach patients what to do if they experience a side effect and how to manage it.
Personalizing the coaching intervention to the patient’s unique clinical needs is also critical. A conversation about side effects with a patient who is taking a medication to prevent the onset of a chronic condition may be quite different than a conversation with a patient taking medication for a life-threatening diagnosis. Patients who are taking life-saving medications for highly advanced chronic conditions are more likely to “deal with” side effects than those who have yet to feel any symptoms of a chronic disease. Health Dialog’s medication adherence team is specifically trained to ask questions that uncover the concerns and fears associated with side effects, and to provide sound guidance on proper medication-taking regimens.