Pharmacy-Based Interventions to Improve Medication Adherence

What to know

Public health practitioners and state and local health departments can support use of the Community Preventive Services Task Force (CPSTF) recommendation by promoting and helping pharmacies implement tailored pharmacy-based interventions.

Pharmacist speaking with a customer about his prescription.


In The Community Guide, the CPSTF recommends tailored pharmacy-based interventions to support adherence to medications prescribed to prevent cardiovascular disease (CVD)1. The CPSTF found these interventions to be cost-effective for preventing CVD.1

The Surgeon General's 2020 Call to Action to Control Hypertension also encourages the use of supportive strategies for medication adherence, including pharmacists as integral members of hypertension care teams.2

Public health practitioners and state and local health departments can support use of the CPSTF recommendation by promoting and helping pharmacies implement tailored pharmacy-based interventions.

Such interventions aim to help patients who are at risk for CVD take their medications as prescribed. Interventions include the following:

  • Assessment: Interviews or assessment tools identify adherence barriers.
  • Tailored guidance and services: A pharmacist uses the results obtained from the patient's assessment to develop and deliver tailored guidance and services that aim to remove or reduce identified barriers.
    • Tailored guidance includes focused medication counseling or motivational interviewing sessions.
    • Tailored services include one or more of the following: patient tools, such as pillboxes, medication cards, and calendars; medication refill synchronization; and enhanced follow-up.

Interventions may be set in community or health system pharmacies. They may include additional components, such as patient education materials or communication between the pharmacist and the patient's primary care provider. Interventions may be used alone, or as part of a broader intervention to reduce patients' CVD risk.

Important Definitions‎

Medication nonadherence is when a patient does not take a prescribed medicine or follow the provider's instructions for taking the medicine. Barriers that prevent patients from taking their medications can appear at the patient, provider, or health system level. Nonadherence is associated with uncontrolled blood pressure and higher rates of hospital admissions.3

The Pharmacists' Patient Care Process was established by the Joint Commission of Pharmacy Practitioners to help pharmacists deliver patient care and services in a consistent way.4

Tailored pharmacy-based interventions address barriers to medication adherence by examining the factors that affect a person's ability to take their medications. These barriers may be complex and include factors related to socioeconomics, health care system structures and processes, severity of co-occurring medical conditions, complexity of medication and nonmedication therapies, and patient concerns.5

Factors that affect a patient's medication adherence may include:

  • Medication cost.
  • Busy schedules that make it hard to remember to take medications consistently.
  • Ease of scheduling appointments.
  • Time needed to schedule and attend appointments.
  • Ease and comfort level of communicating with the pharmacist or other providers.
  • Understanding when and how often to take medications.
  • Ability to sync medications and receive automated 30-day or 90-day refills.
  • Health condition severity and beliefs about their condition.
  • Expectations around possible effects of the medication.

These factors may be intensified by a lack of health care and pharmacy access in the community; lack of trust and effective communication with providers; and limited patient involvement in shared decision-making.

Studies have shown that patients who were adherent to their antihypertensive medications were 30% to 45% more likely to achieve blood pressure control compared to those who were not.67

Nonadherence to medications to prevent CVD has been associated with a significant increase in the risk of premature death from any cause, CVD death, hospitalization for heart attack or heart failure, and coronary revascularization procedures.8

Strategies that support the pharmacists’ patient care process and tailored pharmacy-based interventions

The Joint Commission of Pharmacy Practitioners developed the Pharmacists' Patient Care Process to address medication nonadherence for chronic diseases. Steps in the process (collect, assess, plan, implement, follow-up, and monitor) closely align with how a pharmacist selects tailored actions to remove or reduce patient adherence barriers.

Tailored, pharmacy-based interventions may be one component of the broader Pharmacists' Patient Care Process [PDF – 2 MB]. Strategies that support the Pharmacists' Patient Care Process include medication therapy management, the appointment-based model, collaborative practice agreements, and text messaging.

  • Medication therapy management (MTM)9 includes a broad range of health care services provided by pharmacists—the medication experts on a patient's health care team. It allows pharmacists to actively manage patients' medications and identify, prevent, and resolve medication-related problems. This support helps patients get the most benefit from their medications. MTM services include medication therapy reviews, pharmacotherapy consults, anticoagulation management, immunizations, health and wellness programs, and many other clinical services.
  • The appointment-based model (ABM)10 is a patient-focused care model that can help patients take their medications, make a pharmacy's workflow more efficient, and prevent problems before patients arrive at the pharmacy. Patients enrolled in the ABM have a designated appointment day to pick up all medications. Pharmacy staff call patients before their appointment to identify any changes to their medications and confirm that each prescription should be refilled. The ABM shifts the pharmacy staff's focus from passively filling prescriptions at the request of the patient on an unaligned schedule to proactively synchronizing a pick-up date for chronic medicines. Staff also review the patient's medications each month to ensure that they are getting the correct medications and to identify any potential problems.
  • A pharmacist collaborative practice agreement (CPA)11 is a formal agreement between prescriber(s) and pharmacist(s). A CPA allows licensed health care providers to make diagnoses, supervise patient care, and refer patients to pharmacists. Pharmacists are then allowed to perform specific patient care functions, such as renewing prescriptions, modifying medication therapy according to the protocol, and ordering lab tests.
  • Text messaging12 is used widely by people in all age and socioeconomic groups. It can be used to communicate health information to patients to improve medication adherence.

The benefits and considerations of each of these strategies are outlined in the table below.

Table 1. Strategies that support the pharmacists' patient care process and tailored pharmacy-based interventions




Medication therapy management (MTM)9

  • Optimizes medication use.
  • Reduces hospital readmissions.
  • Reduces health care costs and avoidable use.
  • Improves communication and collaboration between pharmacists and health care providers.


  • Pharmacy workflow and operations may need to change.
  • Pharmacists may need to work with payer to ensure MTM is covered as an essential benefit.


Appointment-based model10

  • Supported by medication synchronization.
  • Provides more time for pharmacists to counsel and educate patients.
  • Improves communication and collaboration between pharmacist and patient.
  • Elevates the role of pharmacy technicians.
  • Does not cost a lot to put into action.
  • Pharmacy workflow and operations may need to change.
  • More time may be needed to synchronize medication refills.
  • More support will be needed from pharmacy technicians.

Collaborative practice agreement (CPA)11

  • Promotes team-based care.
  • May allow pharmacists to initiate, modify, and discontinue therapy.
  • Builds trusting relationships with health care professionals.
  • Improves clinical and financial metrics of quality.
  • Implementation may require registration with a governing body.
  • CPA laws and regulations vary by state.

Text messaging12

  • Allows pharmacists to send medication pick-up reminders to patients.
  • Reminds patients to refill prescriptions.
  • Is compatible with most pharmacy systems.
  • Can be used by patients in any age or socioeconomic group.
  • Cost of texting software varies.
  • Ability to integrate with pharmacy systems varies.

Considering the costs and benefits of implementation

The CPSTF found these tailored pharmacy-based interventions to be cost-effective in preventing CVD among patients with CVD risk factors. They also found evidence that among patients with existing CVD, the cost savings from averted health care exceeded the costs of implementation.

CVD is a major driver of health care costs in the United States—with over $363.4 billion going toward health care services, medications, and lost productivity due to premature death each year.13

The implications of medication nonadherence are widespread and have financial impacts on health systems, providers, payers, and, most importantly, patients. In the United States, the costs of nonadherence to prescribed medications are high and place significant financial strains on the health care system as a whole.14

Medication nonadherence is associated with worse health outcomes and higher health care costs among people with CVD or CVD risk factors. 14151617In one study, higher adherence to prescribed medications for congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, and high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels reduced annual health care spending per person by an estimated $7,800, $3,900, and $1,250, respectively, compared to patients with poorer adherence.17

Tailored pharmacy-based interventions to improve medication adherence among patients with CVD risk factors help address growing health care costs. These interventions lead to cost savings from reductions in outpatient primary care and specialist visits, hospitalizations, and emergency department use. 18The full economic impact of implementing these interventions for key partners and participants involved in the delivery, payment, and receipt of these interventions have been largely unexplored by researchers.

As state and local health departments consider introducing or expanding these interventions in their communities, an important first step is to recognize and convene partners involved in implementing the interventions to ensure greater efficiencies, better health, and cost savings. By considering each key player's role in terms of potential costs and benefits, state and local health departments and their partners may better understand how each may facilitate their implementation and be affected by them.

The role and implementation considerations for key players involved in the delivery, payment, and receipt of tailored pharmacy-based interventions are outlined in the table below.

Table 2. Implementation considerations for key partners and participants

Partner Perspective

Role in Interventions

Implementation Considerations


  • Engage with pharmacist to identify barriers to adherence.
  • Participate in tailored interventions.
  • Patients may be unaware that pharmacists can provide tailored interventions or that these services are covered by their insurance.19,20
  • Easily understood recommendations by pharmacists and healthcare providers may increase utilization.19,20 


  • Deliver tailored interventions to patients with CVD risk factors.
  • Train pharmacy staff to deliver tailored interventions.
  • Adapt workflow to integrate tailored interventions.
  • Ensure patient comfort by delivering tailored interventions in a private area.
  • May involve developing a formal relationship with provider (such as Collaborative Practice Agreement).
  • Pharmacy reimbursement mechanisms may include strategies discussed in Table 1.
  • Changes to medication order, fill, refill process may be needed to accommodate the change in workflow.


  • Coordinate patients’ care, including prescribing medications.
  • Review recommendations from pharmacists and determine if appropriate.
  • May involve developing a formal relationship with pharmacy or pharmacist (such as Collaborative Practice Agreement).
  • Some studies included in the Community Guide review took place in primary care or ambulatory care clinics. Providers or provider groups may consider embedding a pharmacist in their practice.
  • Providing information in clinics or offices about pharmacist-provided tailored interventions may improve patients’ use of tailored interventions.17

Other members of the care team

  • Link patients to health and community services, including pharmacies.
  • Communicate identified barriers to adherence to the patient’s pharmacist or provider.
  • Certified Pharmacy Technicians or other pharmacy support staff may be trained to implement elements of tailored interventions.21,22


  • Cover medications that may improve adherence (such as combination products).
  • Cover and/or support strategies that may improve adherence (such as reduced cost-sharing for medications that prevent CVD, 90-day supply, innovative packaging methods23).
  • Promote improved adherence as an outcome metric.22
  • Set billing/reimbursement codes for all health team members.
  • May be stand-alone benefit or part of broader intervention.
  • Information about covered pharmacy-provided services could be available on the internet or sent via mail, email, or phone to help patients understand their benefits and increase utilization.19,20,24
  • Some of the studies included in the Community Guide review took place in Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM) offices utilizing PBM staff clinical pharmacists.


The tools and resources listed in this section offer steps that public health practitioners and state and local health departments may take.


Identify patient populations that need help. For example, practitioners and health departments can:

  • Map populations with high medication nonadherence rates.
  • Measure medication adherence in a population with high blood pressure. The proportion of days covered (PDC) is the leading method used to calculate medication adherence at the population level. A population is considered adherent if 80% of people have access to their medications for at least 80% of days in a defined study period (for instance, 80% of 365 days).

These tools and resources can help public health practitioners and state and local health departments identify patient populations that need help.


Assess facilitators and the barriers to implementing tailored pharmacy-based interventions. For example, practitioners and health departments can:

  • Identify pharmacies that offer tailored pharmacy-based interventions or supporting strategies or pharmacies that are interested in implementing these services.
  • Determine what factors help patients access and enroll in pharmacies that provide MTM, ABM, or medication synchronization—and what factors prevent access.

These tools and resources can help public health practitioners and state and local health departments assess facilitators and the barriers to implementation.


Act to implement tailored pharmacy-based interventions with strategies that complement the CPSTF recommendation. For example, practitioners and health departments can:

  • Share information with pharmacy partners and support ABM and medication synchronization.
  • Promote team-based care through MTM and other tailored pharmacy-based interventions.

The following tools and resources, in addition to those available through The Community Guide, can help public health practitioners and state and local health departments implement tailored pharmacy-based interventions.

  • The Pharmacists' Patient Care Process Approach: An Implementation Guide: This implementation guide is for public health practitioners and health care professionals to help engage pharmacists in hypertension management through the Pharmacists' Patient Care Process. The Guide includes key examples from the Michigan Medicine Hypertension Pharmacists' Program that health care teams can replicate in their own programs.
  • Pharmacy's Appointment-Based Model [PDF – 1 MB]: This American Pharmacists Association (APhA) Foundation implementation guide has five modules: Introduction, Gaining Organizational Support, Developing the Operational Plan (includes sample documents), Sharing Benefits, and Integrating Technology and Data Monitoring. It also includes stories from the field.
  • MTM Library This APhA portal contains tools for starting or improving MTM services.


Website addresses of nonfederal organizations are provided solely as a service to our readers. Providing an address does not constitute an endorsement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the federal government, and none should be inferred. CDC is not responsible for the content of other organizations' web pages.

  1. The Community Guide. Heart disease and stroke prevention: tailored pharmacy-based interventions to improve medication adherence. Accessed February 5, 2024.
  2. US Department of Health and Human Services. The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Control Hypertension. US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General; 2020.
  3. Neiman AB, Ruppar T, Ho M, et al. CDC Grand Rounds: improving medication adherence for chronic disease management — innovations and opportunities. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2017;66(45):1248–1251.
  4. Joint Commission of Pharmacy Practitioners. The pharmacists' patient care process. Accessed February 5, 2024.
  5. Ferdinand KC, Senatore FF, Clayton-Jeter H, et al. Improving medication adherence in cardiometabolic disease: practical and regulatory implications. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2017;69(4):437–451.
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  7. Piercefield EW, Howard ME, Robinson MH, Kirk CE, Ragan AP, Reese SD. Antihypertensive medication adherence and blood pressure control among central Alabama veterans. J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich). 2017;19(5):543–549.
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  9. American Pharmacists Association, National Association of Chain Drug Stores Foundation. Medication therapy management in pharmacy practice: core elements of an MTM service model (version 2.0). J Am Pharm Assoc. 2008;48(3):341–353.
  10. American Pharmacists Association Foundation. Pharmacy's appointment-based model: implementation guide for pharmacy practices [PDF – 455 KB]. American Pharmacists Association; 2013.
  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Advancing Team-Based Care Through Collaborative Practice Agreements: A Resource and Implementation Guide for Adding Pharmacists to the Care Team. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2017.
  12. Thakkar J, Kurup R, Laba TL, et al. Mobile telephone text messaging for medication adherence in chronic disease: a meta-analysis. JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(3):340–349.
  13. Virani SS, Alonso A, Aparicio HJ, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2021 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2021;143(8)e254–e743.
  14. Benjamin RM. Medication adherence: helping patients take their medicines as directed. Public Health Rep. 2012;127(1):2–3.
  15. Cutler RL, Fernandez-Llimos F, Frommer M, Benrimoj C, Garcia-Cardenas V. Economic impact of medication non-adherence by disease groups: a systematic review. BMJ Open. 2018;8(1):e016982.
  16. Lloyd JT, Maresh S, Powers CA, Shrank WH, Alley DE. How much does medication nonadherence cost the Medicare fee-for-service program? Med Care. 2019;57(3):218–224.
  17. Roebuck MC, Liberman JN, Gemmill-Toyama M, Brennan TA. Medication adherence leads to lower health care use and costs despite increased drug spending. Health Aff. 2011;30(1):91–99.
  18. The Community Guide. Economic review analytic framework: tailored pharmacy-based interventions to improve medication adherence for cardiovascular disease prevention and management [PDF – 387 KB]. Accessed February 5, 2024.
  • Taylor AM, Axon DR, Campbell P, et al. What patients know about services to help manage chronic diseases and medications: findings from focus groups on medication therapy management. J Manag Care Spec Pharm. 2018;24(9):904–910.
  • Zhang Y, Doucette WR. Consumer decision making for using comprehensive medication review services. J Am Pharm Assoc. 2019;59(2):168–177.e5.
  • Funk KA, Pestka DL, Roth McClurg MT, Carroll JK, Sorensen TD. Primary care providers believe that comprehensive medication management improves their work-life. J Am Board Fam Med. 2019;32(4):462–473.
  • Bonner L. Program thrives on 'relationship of trust' between community health workers and patients. PharmacyToday. 2019;9:33.
  • Linville C. The technician's role as a community health worker. America's Pharmacist. 2019; 3:36-39.
  • Piña IL, Di Palo KE, Brown MT, et al. Medication adherence: importance, issues and policy: a policy statement from the American Heart Association. Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2021;64:111–120.
  • Miller DE, Roane TE, Salo JA, Hardin HC. Evaluation of comprehensive medication review completion rates using 3 patient outreach models. J Manag Care Spec Pharm. 2016;22(7):796–800.