Medication Non-Adherence: Definition, Causes and Consequences

Cristian Halati

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) defines adherence to medicines as “the extent to which the patient’s action matches the agreed recommendations”. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated an adherence rate of 50% in developed countries, and an even lower rate in developing countries.  

Non-adherence can limit the benefits of medicine and lead to a plethora of health and economic consequences. Health-wise, non-adherence can result in a lack of improvement or deterioration in health. On an economic level, non-adherence results in wasted medication and further costs that may emerge if a patient’s health deteriorates.  

As it stands, the scientific consensus supports that adherence is imperative for efficacy, favourable health outcomes and lower economic costs.  

Causes of non-adherence  

NICE breaks down the causes of non-adherence into two overlapping categories: intentional and unintentional.


Arises when patients make a conscious decision not to take their medication as recommended. For example, patients may be stopping their medication because they believe it is not working or having a positive impact. Alternatively, some patients may experience a subjective feeling of well-being and symptom remission following initial treatment, which leads to an increased tendency to prematurely discontinue their medication.


Unintentional non-adherence may arise when patients are unable to take their medication as advised due to external reasons beyond their control. Examples may include forgetfulness, inability to pay for medicine and lack of timely and easy access to medication, among others.  

Practical barriers to adherence

The difficulties associated with accessing medication represents one of the aspects that Phlo Digital Pharmacy aims to tackle directly with easy, rapid, and safe medication delivery.  

For patients, the issue may be further compounded by the pressure associated with current worldwide events. Some pharmacies have been closing intermittently throughout the day to better manage surges in demand, staff wellbeing and patient safety, as reported by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.  

At Phlo, our vision is to enable individuals to completely bypass the traditional and arguably time-consuming process of acquiring repeat or acute prescriptions from a local pharmacy. Our aim is to make it as easy and safe as possible to get your medication, and this includes rapid and contactless delivery and easy communication with our trained pharmacists via call or text. Additional features such as consistent medication re-order reminders always enable patients to stay on top of their medication.

Improve your adherence and receive regular reminders to re-order your repeat prescription by registering with Phlo today in under 3 minutes.

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