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August 2023

Taking Medicine Safely Is Vital to Your Health

If you have a chronic condition, your healthcare provider may recommend lifestyle changes and prescribe medicine to help you manage your health.

Not taking your medicine as directed can make your disease worse, possibly leading to hospitalizations and even death. Researchers report that, among adults with chronic conditions, 30% to 50% of medicines are not taken correctly. This nonadherence leads to about 125,000 deaths a year in the U.S.

Here’s an overview of the type of medicines your provider may prescribe and what can happen when conditions aren’t managed properly:

High blood pressure

Common medicine classes: diuretics, beta-blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, and others that relax your blood vessels

When not well-controlled: a greater risk for stroke, chronic heart failure, and other cardiovascular events

Type 2 diabetes

Common medicine classes: insulin and oral medicines that control blood sugar levels

When not well-controlled: eye problems, skin complications, nerve damage, kidney disease, heart disease, and stroke

High cholesterol

Common medicine classes: statins to help reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, also known as “bad” cholesterol, and other medications to lower LDL and prohibit cholesterol absorption in the intestine

When not well-controlled: increased risk for cardiovascular events and death

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

Common medicine classes: bronchodilators (short- or long-acting) to open the airways and relax the lung muscles and steroids to help reduce inflammation

When not well-controlled: lingering cough, wheezing, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing


Common medicine classes: selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and selective serotonin noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) to correct an imbalance of brain chemicals

When not well-controlled: worsening of symptoms, which might include suicidal thoughts

Managing meds at home

Following your medicine plan is an important part of treating your condition. These tips can help:  

  • Ask your provider for advice if you have side effects that cause problems, have trouble paying for your prescriptions, or are looking for tips to help you stay on track with your medicine schedule.

  • Make sure you understand when to take each medicine, how much to take, and how long you should take it.

  • Create a routine that works for you. For example, take your medicines when you eat breakfast or get ready for bed.

  • Use a daily or weekly pill organizer that allows you to put pills in compartments based on when you take them.

Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley BSN, RN
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2023
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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