What is medication adherence?

Taking medication sounds easy, right? Just pop the pill in your mouth with some water, swallow, and that’s it. Well, you have to consider the time of day, if there needs to be food in your stomach before taking it, the route of administration, if it can be taken with other medications, and many other factors. Oh, and you have to make sure you can get the prescription and pay for it before being adherent to it. This act of following a prescribed medication regimen as recommended by your healthcare provider is medication adherence.  

It is widely accepted that an adherence rate of 80% is needed to achieve optimal therapeutic efficiency, meaning an individual must take their medication as directed 80% of the time to receive the full, beneficial effects of the drug. It involves taking medications at the right time, in the correct dosage, and according to the prescribed schedule, which approximately only 50% of people do.  

Adhering to medication instructions is crucial for the improvement of clinical outcomes, the management of health conditions, and the prevention of disease progression.  Here are the key aspects to medication adherence: 


Taking medications at the prescribed times of day or intervals is important to maintain consistent levels of medication in the body and produce the maximum benefit. Different medications work most effectively at different times of the day, for example diuretics should be taken in the morning whereas statins should be taken around bedtime. Instructions like, “Take one capsule daily”, are vague so be sure to ask your provider or pharmacist when a medication should be taken.   


Adhering to the recommended dosage ensures that the medication provides the intended therapeutic effect and minimizes the risk of side effects. Dosing can be confusing, especially if the drug manufacturer does not make a pill in the dosage you need. If you are prescribed 50mg but the drug is only available in 40mg and 10mg, you would have to take both pills to equal your prescribed treatment. Be sure to read the doses on your prescriptions and only take what is required.  


Some medications need to be taken multiple times a day, while others may require weekly or monthly dosing. You may notice your prescription reads “as needed” meaning there is no specific regimen, rather you should only take the drug as circumstances require. Adhering to the prescribed frequency is essential for the medication’s efficacy.  


Completing the entire course of medication as prescribed, even if symptoms improve or you experience common side effects, is necessary to eradicate infections or manage chronic conditions. If you have questions about how long you are supposed to take a medication, reach out to your provider who will clarify the timeline.  

Route of Administration

This refers to the method by which a medication is introduced into the body. Different medications are designed to be administered through various routes, each with its own purpose and considerations. Examples include oral, topical, inhalation, injectable, rectal, and sublingual. Adhering to the prescribed route of administration is vital for a medication to be effective and safe.  

Special Instructions

Some medications require specific conditions for administration, such as taking with food, avoiding certain foods or beverages, shaking, or refraining from lying down immediately after taking the medication. Special instructions should be indicated on the prescription.

Lifestyle Adjustments

Adherence may also involve making lifestyle changes, such as dietary modifications, exercise, limiting sun exposure, or avoiding alcohol, to ensure the medication works optimally and avoid severe side effects. This information is typically verbally explained by a healthcare professional or can be read in the printed medication handout. It can also be found in the digital leaflet associated with a medication in the EveryDose app.  

Proper medication adherence can be an involved process with a great deal of need-to-know information. But it is well worth it given the numerous benefits including better symptom management, improved disease control, and a higher likelihood of achieving health goals. Remember that your healthcare provider and the (free) EveryDose app can support you through your medication management journey.  If you are new to taking medication, read through our tips to ensure you have a successful start.