Edited by Claire Butler
A drug can only work if it is taken correctly. Many patients face challenges when it comes to taking their medications properly for various reasons such as high pill burden, complicated timing of doses, difficulty with memory, or physical impairments. Poor medication adherence contributes to increased chronic disease complications and health care costs. One way pharmacists can help ensure their patients get the full benefit from their medications is through compliance packaging.
What is compliance packaging?
Compliance packaging, also referred to as “blister/bubble packs” or “dosettes”, are a special way to package medications. They are a convenient way to remember to take the correct medications at the correct times throughout the day. As shown below, compliance packages typically package one week’s worth of medication in a single, clearly labelled pack. Each pack has specific slots for the time of day at which a medication is to be taken, such as morning, afternoon, evening, and bedtime. The medications are then placed into the correct compartment of the pack, based on what your doctor and pharmacist believe is the appropriate time to take your medication.
Fun Fact: Our blog is appropriately named “The Dosette” because we aim to provide weekly, easy-to-understand pharmacy and health information all in one place!
What is the benefit of compliance packaging?
Compliance packaging eliminates any confusion that can occur when taking multiple medications. Compliance packages have also been shown to increase medication adherence. That is, these packages ensure that patients take their medication at the appropriate times and are not forgetting or missing doses. Difficulties with memory can make it challenging to remember if a dose has already been taken. Compliance packages are a simple and effective way to visually track which medications have been taken throughout the day to avoid overdosing. Compliance packages are also a good tool for those who struggle with manual dexterity. Medication vials can be tricky to open for many people, so compliance packages can ease the medication-taking process. These packages help ensure that patients receive the full benefit of their medications.
Who can get their medications in a compliance package?
Anyone can request a compliance package. There are no criteria that must be met to obtain compliance packaging for your medications. However, your pharmacist will discuss whether a compliance package will provide additional benefit to you before they agree to package your medications this way. If you believe that you would benefit from having your medications packaged in a compliance pack, talk to your pharmacist.
How do pharmacies make compliance packages?
Although the process is different at every pharmacy, there are some common steps involved in putting together a compliance package.
A pharmacist will review your medication list and determine which times are most appropriate to take each medication, sometimes consulting your doctor if needed. After this initial check, the medications that are to be placed into the compliance package are counted out and are checked over by a pharmacist or pharmacy technician. Once the medications are ready to be placed in the pack, a compliance label is printed off from your patient file in the pharmacy computer system. This label will have the name, strength, and directions pertaining to each medication in the compliance package. This label is affixed onto the compliance package and will serve as a guide to your pharmacy team when creating your compliance package and can also inform you about the times that your medications are to be taken.
Once the compliance package is properly labelled, a member of the pharmacy team will wash their hands, put on gloves, lay out the package in front of them and place the correct medications into the correct day and time slot of the compliance package. Once all the medications have been placed in the appropriate slot, the pharmacy team member will seal the package. Another member of the pharmacy team will verify the completed compliance package to ensure the medications are placed in the correct slots. Once this is done the compliance package is ready to be picked up!
Do compliance packages cost more than getting my medications in a vial?
Each pharmacy charges a dispensing fee. This fee applies to every medication that is being counted out for you regardless of whether it is a one day, one month, or three-month supply.
Compliance packages are typically dispensed weekly or monthly, while medications in a vial are typically dispensed as one month or three-month supplies. Although the dispensing fee for a compliance pack is the same as the dispensing fee for a medication in a vial, it is charged more often since compliance packs are only dispensed for a maximum of one month. Furthermore, some pharmacies may charge an additional fee for putting medications into a compliance pack. As a result, compliance packages may end up costing more than getting the medications in a vial.
What medications can be put into a compliance package?
Any medication that is stable at room temperature and that can be safely stored with other medications can be put into a compliance package. Medications that are sensitive to light, moisture, need to be kept in the fridge, or will react when in contact with other medications will not be placed in compliance packages. Further, only oral tablets and capsules can be placed in compliance packages. Inhalers, injections, rectal and vaginal products, ointments and creams, and eye- and ear-drops cannot be packaged this way.
Do you think you could benefit from a compliance package? Ask your pharmacist!
Conn VS, Ruppar TM, Chan, KC, Dunbar-Jacob J, Pepper GA, Geest SD. Packaging interventions to increase medication adherence: systematic review and meta-analysis. Current Medical Research and Opinion. 31(1): 145-160.