5 On Your Side

Pharmacies, apps work to help keep pill schedules on track

Posted August 10

Doctors tell you to fill and take your prescriptions, and, with more than half of Americans taking four prescription medications, staying organized and on track is key.

Between prescription medications and over the counter products, Susan Miles takes about 15 pills a day. She would sometimes miss a dose until she found the right organizer.

“The size of the pouches can hold at least my 15 pills, and that’s very important for me," Miles said. "I know what I’m taking, and I don’t miss any pills.”

While it takes time each month to fill the pouches, she says it’s worth it to avoid mistakes.

“Mistakes can easily happen," said Consumer Reports' Lisa Gill. "A study shows that taking five or more medications increases your risk of errors, like taking the wrong drug or taking it at the wrong time.”

You can find another option at some independently owned drug stores and a handful of chain pharmacies.

Some offer a blister pack service, which sorts medications according to when you should take them. It’s especially useful with more complicated regimens. Patients can also find online pharmacies that can help with mailed medications.

"We looked into a free service by an online pharmacy called Pillpack that syncs up your prescriptions so they refill at the same time," Gill said. "Then they organize them into individualized packets based on the time of day that you take them, and then they ship them to you.”

Pillpack also can also add in most over-the-counter drugs and supplements you take, and it accepts most insurance. Pillpack does not fill drugs that can cause dependency, though, like the pain reliever Vicodin or the ADHD drug, Adderall.

If you like apps to help you get organized, Consumer Reports recommends several: Medisafe and MyTherapy send phone alerts to caregivers and family members if a pill is missed. Both apps are free from the Google Play and Apple stores.

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