Do You Take Your New Prescription Drugs Right Away?

Did you know that over 15% of patients get new prescription drugs don’t get them filled? And that initial medication non-adherence, or non-compliance, was 17.6%? A study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology found that the most common medication prescriptions not filled were for a certain type of pain reliever (22.6%) and the least common was for ACE inhibitors, usually used to manage high blood pressure, hypertension (7.4%).

Not taking prescribed medications is a choice that you can make, but in order to be an effective advocate for your own health or for someone you are caring for, it’s important to understand why a drug may be prescribed and what might happen if it’s not taken. And it’s important for your healthcare professional to know that you aren’t taking the prescription drugs and why,  so they can explore other options.

Understanding why patients don’t fill or take a new prescription drug is important because it can have a substantial impact on a person’s health. Do they not fill the prescription because they don’t agree with the diagnosis? Can they not afford the medication? Do they plan to do so later but then get too busy or forget? Did someone talk them out of it?

The researchers in this study found that the people who were most likely not to fill their prescription drugs were:

  • Younger adults 
  • Americans (the study was done in Spain) 
  • Having a psychological or psychiatric disorder 
  • Having a pain disorder
  • Receiving treatment by a substitute/resident GP in a teaching center

“We are especially concerned about the high rates of initial medication non-adherence in chronic treatments such as insulins, statins, or antidepressants and suspect that it is also related to an increase in costs, so we are designing an intervention targeting high risk patients,” said study co-author Dr. Maria Rubio-Valera.

So What Can You Do About This?

Gone are the days when people thought they shouldn’t or couldn’t question their doctor. For sure, physicians and other healthcare professionals have years of education and experience behind them, but you are also part of the healthcare team. In fact, you are the central part of the team, and you need to understand what is going on with your body. Asking questions about your treatment isn’t being disrespectful. It’s ensuring you understand your part in your treatment plan.

So, ask those questions! If you don’t understand the responses, you need to push for clarity.

And if you feel you won’t or don’t want to take the medications, tell your doctor so alternative treatments can be discussed.

It’s not a good idea to let the doctor believe you will be compliant if you don’t plan on it.

And How Can Healthcare Professionals Help With Prescription Drugs?

Pharmacists are the front-line healthcare professionals when it comes to medication-related issues. For example, if you experience uncomfortable side effects, sometimes a pharmacist can give tips on taking the drugs differently to reduce those reactions. Or your pharmacist may realize that a new drug is interacting with a drug that another doctor prescribed you earlier. Your pharmacist is a wealth of information — you need to take advantage of it.

Here are some questions you can ask. Some are the same that you would ask your doctor or prescribing healthcare professional:

This post is an adapted reprint from Marijke: Nurse Turned Writer; February 2017 and part of Just The Right Dose: Your Smart Guide to Prescription Drugs & How to Take Them Safely.


The information in this blog is provided as an information and educational resource only. It is not to be used or relied upon for diagnostic or treatment purposes.

The blog does not represent or guarantee that its information is applicable to a specific patient’s care or treatment. The educational content in this blog is not to be interpreted as medical advice from any of the authors or contributors. It is not to be used as a substitute for treatment or advice from a practicing physician or other healthcare professional.