Maybe your doctor wrote you a prescription to help keep a chronic condition under control, or to help you feel better day-to-day. Yet one out of every five prescriptions doesn’t get filled—and even when meds do make it home, people often miss doses, abandon pill bottles midway through, or fail to follow the instructions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
What gives? The most common obstacles are being too busy and simply forgetting, says Danielle Soriano, PharmD, a pharmacist at Walgreens in Chicago. “Often patients forget to take medications because it’s not something they’re used to doing,” she notes. The best way to get into the habit of taking your prescriptions, is to create—and stick to—a medication routine. Here’s how to do it.
First, know what you need to take—and when.
Before you can create a medication schedule, you need to know how and when to take your prescriptions. Do they need to be taken in the morning or the evening? With food or without? If you didn’t receive instructions from your doctor, reach out to your pharmacist.
“I always encourage patients to ask questions,” says Soriano. Your pharmacist can answer everything from what time to take a pill to how it will interact with other medications. For middle-of-the-night questions, try Walgreens Pharmacy Chat*, a 24/7 online service that lets you talk to an actual pharmacist—not a robot.
Next, set up a system.
Whether you need to take a round of antibiotics or a maintenance medication for a chronic condition, these strategies can help ensure you never miss a dose:
- Get a pillbox.
This is a tried-and-true method because it’s super effective. “I definitely love the pillbox,” says Soriano. Choose a weekly or monthly one and place your supply of medications inside. Some options offer the ability to sort pills by time of day, too, which is handy if you have to take medications several times a day.
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- Keep it visible.
“If your medication is hidden away in a cabinet, it’s easy to forget,” says Soriano. Try keeping your meds next to the cereal box for morning doses or on your nightstand for before-bed pills. One cautionary note: If you have kids, make sure the medication has a safety cap and is locked, advises the CDC. If you’re using a pillbox, you can pop the entire thing into a locking medication bag.
- Use reminders.
Place a post-it note reminder on the bathroom mirror or refrigerator door, suggests the American Heart Association. It’s a simple yet effective visual cue.
GET THE WALGREENS APP
Prefer to keep things digital? Set up a calendar alert or repeating alarm on your phone or smartwatch. Or download the Walgreens app, which lets you easily set multiple pop-up reminders—particularly helpful if you take a lot of meds or have a complicated dosing schedule.
Finally, always have your meds on hand.
When it comes to requesting refills, don’t wait until the last minute. “Sometimes doctors take a day or two to get a refill request to us [pharmacists],” notes Soriano.
- Manage prescriptions on your phone.
To make sure you’re never stranded without your medications, sign up for Walgreens text alerts (just text JoinRx to 21525**). The service reminds you when it’s time for a refill, lets you know when your Rx is ready, and even tells you how much it’s going to cost. Or, use the Walgreens app to scan your pill bottle and automatically request a refill.
- Request more upfront.
For long-term medications, like inhalers and blood pressure medication, ask your pharmacist for a 90-day supply, so you won’t have to pick up medications as frequently. Can’t make it to the store? Consider getting your prescriptions filled at Walgreens and taking advantage of their next-day express delivery***.
- Set up auto-refills.
Soriano also suggests setting up auto refills through the website or when you visit the pharmacy—think of it as one less task for your to-do list. Once you have auto refills in place, the pharmacy will send a request to your doctor a few days before your prescription runs out. That way, “you don’t ever have to be without your medication,” Soriano says.
*Pharmacy Chat: Pharmacy chat is not intended for use in medical emergencies. If you are in need of immediate medical attention, contact your physician, poison control center or emergency medical professional. If you need to speak with a pharmacist for urgent matters, contact your local Walgreens pharmacist. The information provided is not a substitute for medical advice from your physician. Only available in English.
** Message and data rates may apply. Ongoing texts may be sent using an automatic telephone dialing system. Consent not required for purchase. To opt out at any time, text the word STOP to 21525.
***Walgreens Express: Walgreens Express is available on eligible prescriptions only. Most prescription orders are available to be delivered to the patient’s home in 1–2 days. Orders received by 4pm on Friday, as well as requests made during the weekend, have an expected delivery day of Tuesday or Wednesday. Prescriptions are not delivered on Sundays or holidays. Please note that while most prescriptions are expected to be delivered in 1–2 days, some deliveries may not be eligible for delivery due to prescription type, delivery address, holidays, weather, or other delivery constraints. Free delivery available for a limited time only and excludes same-day delivery.