How to Get Better At Taking Your Meds

What Can You Do To Increase Adherence To Asthma Medication

Asthma non-adherence is a major reason for poor asthma control with anywhere from 30–70 percent of patients not taking their medications appropriately.

Do you have trouble taking your medications and following an appropriate medical regimen? Do you feel your doctor is a poor communicator when it comes to what you need to be doing for your asthma?

If you have ever left your doctor’s office feeling like you know you need to do something but you are not sure what, this article is for you.

Problems complying with your asthma medical regimen come from a variety of sources, both medication related and personal/ social, such as:

  • Inappropriate inhaler technique.
  • Underuse of medication.
  • Complex medication regimens with multiple medications.
  • Medication costs.
  • Periods of good control that make it seem as if medication is not needed.
  • Dislike of medications and potential side effects.
  • Poor education about asthma.
  • Anxiety/ depression.

What Should My Doctor Be Doing

Your asthma care is really a partnership between you and your doctor. There are certain things that your doctor should be doing to enhance your asthma adherence. These could include:

  • Establish and discuss your asthma goals.
  • Try to identify risk factors for asthma non adherence specific to you.
  • Simplify your plan as much as possible.
  • Determine if you can afford your meds and provide information about prescription assistance if needed.
  • Provide you with a written asthma action plan that details how to use medications and what to do when you are experiencing asthma symptoms.

    What Can I Do To Improve Asthma Non-adherence

    One thing that you can do is to identify periods of time when you miss your medication or are not able to take it as directed. Monitor your medication use for one week and then compare your actual usage to what it should have been. You can then ask yourself the following questions:

    • Was there a particular time of day that I missed my medication? If you miss your medication in the morning, you might try keeping your controller medication near a place that you go to every morning. I have patients who have been successful placing their inhaler next to a coffee maker or their toothbrush. Others have put fluorescent sticky notes in prominent places such as the refrigerator or back door.
    • Are there particular locations that interfere with your education schedule? I have found this to occur in two primary locations— school and work. While schools are much better about allowing students to take their asthma medication, I still have parents report a number of barriers. In terms of work, my shift working patients seem to have the most trouble. Different schedules lead to irregular sleep periods and many opportunities to miss medications.
    • Do specific locations or activities lead to missed medication? Some people may not feel comfortable taking medications in certain situations. If this is the case you should discuss with your doctor if it is ok to take your medication before or after the event where you feel uncomfortable.
    • Do certain people interfere with your medication regimen? While this could be similar to location/ activities above, it is also common to have people give patients incorrect information or say things like “you don’t really need that medication.”
    • Do certain feelings interfere with you taking medication correctly? Anxiety and depression can coexist with asthma and these conditions can impact your adherence to your medical regimen. If you feel that anxiety or depression are interfering with your regimen, discuss possible solutions with your doctor.

    Answering these questions or working with your doctor to develop a plan with get you closer to better asthma control.

    A number of other personal issues effect medication adherence that can range from just forgetting your medication to experiencing side effects. No matter what issues are effecting you, the key is identification and setting up a plan to deal with the barriers.


    1.  Bender BG, Bender SE. Patient-identified barriers to asthma treatment adherence: responses to interviews, focus groups, and questionnaires. Immunol Allergy Clin North Am. 2005;25(1):107. 
    2.  Rand CS, Wise RA. Measuring adherence to asthma medication regimens. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 1994;149(2 Pt 2):S69. 
    3.  National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Accessed: July 24, 2014. [Expert Panel Report 3 (EPR3): Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma]( 

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