U.S. Markets closed

David Pogue tested 47 pill-reminder apps to find the best

David Pogue
Tech Critic

You want to hear some numbers that’ll curl your toes?

They’re dying of what doctors call non-adherence—basically, not following instructions.

And you don’t have to be old and feeble to have trouble. When I was recovering from a kidney stone last year, my doctor told me to take ibuprofen, two pills, four times a day; phenazopyridine, one pill, three times a day; ciprofloxacin, two pills twice a day; docusate sodium, one capsule, three times a day; and solifenacin succinate, one pill, once a day.

Seriously? You’d need a spreadsheet.

Now imagine that you’re on 10 prescriptions. Or 20.

The point is: There should be an app that reminds you of what to take when, and records your adherence. In fact, there is an app like that—at least 47 of them, actually. I know, because I bought, installed, and tested every single one, on a quest for the best.

An app that tracks your meds through the day. Is that so hard?

Here’s the complete list of apps I tried. (I originally located 75 of these apps but eliminated apps that are over three years old, since they’re usually pretty creaky. Many apps have identical names, so I’ve included the full title as it appears on the app store. They’re free unless noted.)

Care4Today, CareZone, CeyHello, Do not forget your pills, Dose Direct, Dose Organizer  ($1), Dosecast, Easy Pill ($3), GenieMD, iCare—Medication Reminder, Mango Health—Medicine Manager, Pill Reminder, Med Helper—Pill Reminder and Medication Tracker, MedBox—Medication Reminder and Rx Tracker, MedCoach Medication Reminder, Medi-Prompt—Medication Reminder and Log ($4), Medisafe Pill Reminder & Medication Tracker, MedOClock—Free Pill Reminder with Health Journal, Meds Alert, Meds Tracker: Medication Daily Reminder and Tracker, Memo Health—Smart pill reminder & meds manager, Memo Pill Reminder, Mr. Pillster—pill reminder & medication tracker ($5), MyMedSchedule Mobile, MyTherapy Meds & Pill Reminder with Health Diary, Pill Alert, Pill Alert—Medicine Reminder, Pill Alert—Med, Prescriptions Reminder & Tracker, Pill Box—Your Pill Reminder, Pill In Time, Pill Monitor, Pill Monitor Pro—Medication Reminders and Logs  ($1), Pill Reminder—All in One, Medication Reminders…, Pill Reminder—Drugs.com, Pill Reminder— MedRem, Pill Reminder—Alarm for medicine, contraceptive, Pill Reminder Alarm—Reminder To Take Medication, Pill Tracker Box, Pillbox—Your Pill Reminder, Pillboxie ($2), Pills—Reminder for Daily Taking Medicine and Pills Medication Reminder ($1), PocketNurse—Pill Reminder, Round Health—Medicine Reminder and Pill Tracker, RX2—Meds and Pill Reminder ($3), rxRemind—Free Medicine Pill Reminder and Tracker.

Got it?

Apparently, a pill reminder is what every coder attempts as My Very First App, because most of them are terrible. Some are just bare-bones, but others are aggressively bad. Plenty of them crash on opening. Lots are full of typos and broken English. Many of them make it extremely awkward to enter the pill information. Almost all of them should instantly go into the Great App Trash Bin in the Sky.

Fortunately, there’s one shining exception.

What we want in a pill-reminder app

Dive into a few of these apps, and it rapidly becomes apparent that eight features separate the good stuff from the junk:

  • Easy to enter the med’s name. In bad apps (most of them), you have to type out the name of the medicine with your finger, carefully glancing back to the drugstore bottle. In better apps, you can type the first few letters and then tap Search—and choose from a list of matches. In the best apps, you get real-time autocomplete: A list of matches appears as you type.
  • Pictures of the pills. The worst apps don’t even attempt graphics. Better ones let you take a photo of your pills, or choose from a palette of pill shapes and colors. The best ones already know what the meds look like, because they’re plugged into online medicine databases. Compliance is much more likely if the reminders, instead of just saying phenazopyridine, also show a couple of maroon round pills.
  • Easy to enter the times. The worst apps make you set reminder times manually. If you’re supposed to take a pill 3 times a day, for example, you might input 10 a.m., 6 p.m., and 2 a.m. The better ones let you enter “3x daily,” and the app proposes three evenly spaced times. The best ones do that but also intelligently reset the timer if you’re late taking a pill at one of the three times.
  • Drug warnings. The worst apps don’t have any actual knowledge of the drugs you’ve listed; it doesn’t know “ibuprofen” from “I love Lucy.” The better apps show you a page of information about each prescription. And the best apps automatically warn you if you’ve entered two drugs that shouldn’t be taken together.
  • Family monitoring. The worst apps track only your meds. The better ones let you track other family members’ meds on your phone, so that you can also remember when it’s time to dose up your kid or your parent. The best ones also let you know remotely when a loved one has missed a dose. For example, if your grandfather doesn’t tap “Done” when he gets his 6 p.m. reminder to take his heart medicine, your phone lets you know, so you can call him up and bug him.
  • To Do list. The worst apps just pop up reminders when it’s time to take a medicine. The better ones also show you a tidy timeline of upcoming pills you’ll have to take today. The best apps also keep a history—a handy report of your past pill-taking record—that you can send to, say, your doctor.
  • Smart rescheduling. The worst apps just remind you when it’s time to take a dose. The better ones let you indicate either Taken or Missed for each reminder. The best ones also offer options to Skip or Postpone a dose. (For example, if you’re on hardcore pain medicine that you’re supposed to take no more often than every four hours, the reminder that pops up says, in effect, “You may take a pill now.” But if you don’t need it, you can hit Skip.)
  • Lock-screen dismissal. All apps make an alert appear on your iPhone or Android phone’s Lock screen. Usually, in order to indicate that you’ve taken that pill, you have to swipe that alert to open the app. The best ones offer Taken or Skipped buttons right there on the Lock screen, for less disruption and fewer steps.

As it turns out, only one app delivers all of those features. It’s so much more complete than its rivals, with so much more polish, that the others should slink back to the app store in shame.

To make matters even better, this app is free. This  winner, by a wide margin, is called Medisafe.


As you can see by the video above, Medisafe wins you over right at the top, by auto-completing your drug names as you enter them and showing you what they look like. It autocompletes both prescription and over-the-counter drug names.

If you get your prescriptions from CVS, Walgreens, RiteAid, or WalMart, the app can even import your complete meds list directly from those drugstore accounts, so you do no data entry at all.

It’s got drug-interaction warnings, and even—get this—videos that offer drug and dosage information. “This is Tamsulosin,” a doctor-looking guy says in one, “and you should take your dose 30 minutes after a meal. You should swallow the capsule whole, and don’t crush or chew it.” He goes on to describe what it’s for and what the side effects can be. (The videos cover the drugs representing 85% of all prescriptions.)

MediSafe is smart, simple, complete, and free.

This app makes it incredibly easy to specify when and how many you’re supposed to take. It reminds you to refill your prescription, too.

The app shows your drug regimen as four “pill boxes,” representing morning, afternoon, and so on. To say you’ve taken your dose, you just swipe across the medicine’s name, or (if you take several at once) hit Take All. You can indicate that you’re skipping a dose, or postponing it.

There’s a To Do list, a History report, an Apple Watch app, a built-in tutorial, and notifications if a loved one has missed a dose.

So if Medisafe is free, how does it make money? Kind of clever: Its company makes money from drug companies, health plans, and doctors. Each has a vested interest in your sticking to your prescription routine: health insurers, because keeping you healthy costs them less; doctors, because (a) they want you healthy and (b) sometimes the insurance companies won’t pay them if you get re-admitted for the same ailment within 30 days; and pharma companies, because if you take your meds on time, you’ll have to buy refills from them sooner! Handy, no?

If you or someone you love could use a free, lovely, complete pill-reminder app, go download Medisafe.

The runners-up

Here are a few other apps worth mentioning.

Care4Today. This beautifully simple app is a close second place. It offers a quick visual way to check off doses as you take them, color-coded by urgency (below, left). Offers drug info, interaction warnings, autocomplete, and automatic pill pictures. Better yet, few apps go as far as this one to encourage adherence. For example, it shows weekly graphs of your adherence, including your running percentage score. And get this: For each day that you maintain 100% adherence, the company donates 25 cents to a charity (you can choose from a set of 9).

Care4Today is beautiful and rich, complete with autocomplete (center) and charitable donations for each day you master your meds.

Pill Reminder—All in One, Medication Reminders. Very clean, very attractive, easy to use. Type a few letters, then tap “Search U.S. FDA Database” to autocomplete (although it doesn’t list everything). You can specify either “3 times a day” or specify three exact times. Options to reschedule; auto-snooze. If you have more than two meds, you have to buy the $2 Pro version.

“Pill Reminder – All in One…” looks great and shows simple pill graphics.

Pill Reminder—Drugs.com. Superb, clean layout; the To Do list is also a calendar, so you can look ahead or back to other days. Autocomplete for drug names, option to photograph your pills. Tracks your refills; offers a password for privacy.

“Pill Reminder – Drugs.com” is pretty great. (There are 4 other apps called Pill Reminder, though–don’t get confused.)

Pillboxie. Really simple app, heavy on clear, attractive graphics. For example, you schedule your dose times by dragging a picture of the pill into a time-labeled pill-box on the screen. Lots of help screens. To Do list, History, fun reminder sounds.

Pillboxie’s text and graphics are big and clear enough to see without glasses.

Round Health—Medicine Reminder and Pill Tracker. Shows a round daily graph of your progress; offers a unique but somewhat confusing “time window” system of reminder prompts. Great autocomplete that includes standard pill strengths—alas, no pictures. If you create an account, you can save your med history and sync data between multiple devices.

Round Health shows your progress as a round graph (left). It also has autocomplete (right).

RX2—Meds and Pill Reminder. Super efficient to schedule your doses: If you tap “3x a day,” the app proposes the actual time slots (you can adjust the defaults in Settings, or on the spot). When the time comes, you can tap Take, Skip, or Reschedule. Clear, big design. View by day, week, month. Autocomplete (although doesn’t know all med names). No pill pictures, though.

RX2 has a bold, clear design and a choice of Day, Week, or Month views.

Happy pill taking!

I’ve identified seven extraordinary, well designed apps that remind you to take your meds, and track your adherence; MediSafe and Care4Today, in particular, are spectacular.

Now, technically, I can appreciate that a tech column is more exciting when it covers hybrid tablets or automated drones. But this time, I thought maybe the most exciting product is one that can save your life.

Read more from David Pogue:

A two-minute tour of this year’s South by Southwest Conference

The little-known iPhone feature that lets the blind

David Pogue tested 40 blue tooth headphones to find the best one

I paid $3,000 for my MacBook Pro and got emotional whiplash

Pogue: Here’s what Snapchat is all about

David Pogue, tech columnist for Yahoo Finance, welcomes non-toxic comments in the Comments below. On the web, he’s davidpogue.com. On Twitter, he’s @pogue. On email, he’s poguester@yahoo.com. You can read all his articles here, or you can sign up to get his columns by email


  • Here are Warren Buffett's top 15 stock holdings
    Yahoo Finance

    Here are Warren Buffett's top 15 stock holdings

    Some of the top holdings include American Express (AXP), Apple (AAPL), Bank of America (BAC), and Delta Airlines DAL , according to Buffett's widely-read annual letter. Buffett wrote that he doesn't view these investments as "stock market wagers — dalliances to be terminated because of downgrades by 'the Street,' an earnings' miss,' expected Federal Reserve actions, possible political developments, forecasts by economists or whatever else might be the subject du jour." Rather than stock holdings, Buffett views these as companies Berkshire Hathaway "partly owns."

  • Business

    If Coronavirus Is Killing Fewer People Than the Flu, Why Has Beijing Quarantined Millions?

    China's Leaders on the Hot Seat Market Intelligence Report by TIS Group Feb. 21: Over the past several days, we have detailed some, though not all, of the actions being taken by China's government to control the coronavirus outbreak. I was told today that roughly 50,000 people die in China each year from the flu. If the coronavirus is just another flu-like virus and the current death toll really is about 2,000, not 50,000, why then has Beijing locked down 750 million people?

  • Morgan Stanley is paying $2,500 per customer for E-Trade. You can earn a $3,500 sign-up bonus for signing with a new broker — with one major catch

    Morgan Stanley is paying $2,500 per customer for E-Trade. You can earn a $3,500 sign-up bonus for signing with a new broker — with one major catch

    If the latest Wall Street mega-deal doesn't make you want to switch online brokerage accounts for a lucrative sign-up bonus, maybe it should. Wall Street giant Morgan Stanley announced an agreement Thursday to pay $13 billion to acquire the online brokerage E-Trade which has 5.2 million customer accounts. “The combination will significantly increase the scale and breadth of Morgan Stanley's Wealth Management franchise, and positions Morgan Stanley to be an industry leader in Wealth Management across all channels and wealth segments,” Morgan Stanley said in a statement.

  • Opinion: Bernie Sanders and the Missing $25 Trillion

    Opinion: Bernie Sanders and the Missing $25 Trillion

    During the Democratic debate on Feb. 19, 2020, Pete Buttigieg skewered Bernie Sanders over the high cost of his plans. Image: Mike Blake/Reuters

  • Warren Buffett says Berkshire is '100% prepared' for his death, details what will happen to his stock
    Yahoo Finance

    Warren Buffett says Berkshire is '100% prepared' for his death, details what will happen to his stock

    Investing icon Warren Buffett says Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-A, BRK-B) is "100% prepared" for his death, and detailed what will happen to his shares in that event. In his widely-read annual letter, Buffett told the story of how his friend received "an irritating letter" from a local newspaper seeking biographical data for an obituary. Buffett, whose net worth is estimated by Forbes to be $90.2 billion, has 99% of his net worth in Berkshire shares.

  • How Does My Spousal Social Security Benefit Work?

    How Does My Spousal Social Security Benefit Work?

    If you have never worked or paid Social Security taxes (or not paid them for long enough), you will not be eligible to receive Social Security retirement benefits on your own account. You will also be able to apply for Medicare at age 65 as long as your spouse is at least 62. If you apply before you have reached full retirement age and your own benefit is larger, you will automatically be paid that amount.

  • ‘Overprotected’ investors could get stung in the next recession, warns top Barclays strategist

    ‘Overprotected’ investors could get stung in the next recession, warns top Barclays strategist

    Rattled by rising non-China coronavirus cases — notably in South Korea — investors appear unwilling to load up on stocks heading into the weekend. Welcome to the world of helicopter investing and our call of the day from Barclays Wealth Management's chief investment officer William Hobbs, who finds overly anxious investors living in the “long shadow” caused by the financial crisis. “The most common narrative in markets is what to do when the next recession comes along — own Treasurys, own gold, own quality to such an extent that my concern would almost be that if the next recession is of a more normal variety, such as a stock retracement of 10% to 15% and moderate declines in unemployment, you'll find that you have overprotected yourself and the underperformance could actually be in the areas which you thought were giving you safety,” Hobbs told MarketWatch.

  • Business

    Berkshire Hathaway Posts Profit of $29.2B With Near-Record Cash

    Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway on Saturday swung to a profit in the fourth quarter vs. a year-earlier Kraft Heinz -induced loss as well as cash on hand that remains at near-record levels as the conglomerate's collective investments continued to churn out positive returns. The Omaha, Nebraska-based company on Saturday said it earned net income in the quarter of $29.2 billion, or $17,909 per Class A share equivalent, up from a loss of $25.4 billion, or $15,467 a share, the year before. The year-ago results were dragged down largely by an unexpected write-down at Kraft Heinz, of which Berkshire is a significant shareholder.

  • How Much Are Taxes on an IRA Withdrawal?

    How Much Are Taxes on an IRA Withdrawal?

    How much you will pay in taxes on an individual retirement account (IRA) withdrawal depends on the type of IRA, your age, and the purpose of the withdrawal. In other cases, you owe income tax on the money you withdraw and sometimes an additional penalty if you withdraw funds before age 59½. There are a number of IRA options and a variety of places to open these accounts, but the Roth IRA and the traditional IRA are by far the most widely held types.

  • Warren Buffett reveals a big change to this year's annual shareholder meeting
    Yahoo Finance

    Warren Buffett reveals a big change to this year's annual shareholder meeting

    Warren Buffett just announced a major tweak to the format of Berkshire Hathaway's (BRK-A, BRK-B) famed Annual Meeting, informing shareholders that vice chairs Ajit Jain and Greg Abel will take part in the question and answer session. Every year, nearly 40,000 shareholders from across the globe descend on Omaha, Nebraska to listen to Buffett, 89, and his right-hand man Charlie Munger, 96, answer questions and deliver investing wisdom, life advice, and the occasional quip.

  • Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway was responsible for 1.5% of the taxes paid by corporate America in 2019
    Yahoo Finance

    Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway was responsible for 1.5% of the taxes paid by corporate America in 2019

    Warren Buffett wants to let you know that Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-A, BRK-B) is paying taxes. In 2019, Berkshire sent $3.6 billion to the U.S. Treasury to pay its current income tax,” Buffett said in his annual letter to shareholders. The U.S. government collected $243 billion from corporate income tax payments during the same period.

  • Business

    Buffett Spends Record $2.2 Billion Buying Berkshire Shares

    Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc., which loosened its repurchase policy almost two years ago after being stymied on the dealmaking front, has since taken a cautious approach to buybacks, acquiring only $6.3 billion of stock. In the fourth quarter, Buffett bought shares every month, and has no plans to slow down, if the price is right. “Shareholders having at least $20 million in value of A or B shares and an inclination to sell shares to Berkshire may wish to have their broker contact Berkshire's Mark Millard,” Buffett said in his annual letter to shareholders Saturday.

  • In this wild stock market, some investors favor Tesla and Virgin Galactic over Apple and Amazon

    In this wild stock market, some investors favor Tesla and Virgin Galactic over Apple and Amazon

    Investors are beginning to show late-cycle stock market behavior. Investors' new mantra: Apple (AAPL) and Amazon (AMZN) are for boomers — we buy Tesla (TSLA) and Virgin Galactic (SPCE) Apple and Amazon are pedestrian stocks of yesterday; they do nothing interesting. Vacationing in space on a Virgin Galactic flight is around the corner.

  • Dividend ETFs To Buy And Watch For 2020
    Investor's Business Daily

    Dividend ETFs To Buy And Watch For 2020

    Dividends have long been a favorite of investment gurus from Warren Buffett to late Vanguard Group founder John Bogle, and it's easy to see why. Individual stocks can provide income, but dividend ETFs are an easy way to gain exposure to a basket of dividend-paying stocks. With a stock dividend, a company distributes additional shares instead of cash.

  • Justice Department announces $3 billion settlement with Wells Fargo
    ABC News Videos

    Justice Department announces $3 billion settlement with Wells Fargo

    Over 15 years, Wells Fargo employees made 2 million fake accounts, and the government said $500 million of the settlement will go to investors.

  • Kraft Heinz Stock Is Not Worth Chasing

    Kraft Heinz Stock Is Not Worth Chasing

    Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A,NYSE:BRK.B), led by famed investor Warren Buffett, remains a major shareholder, and in fact helped lead the merger between Kraft and Heinz. It doesn't take that much of a close look to see what's wrong with Kraft Heinz and with Kraft Heinz stock.

  • Mason Hawkins' Southeastern Buys 4 Stocks in 4th Quarter

    Mason Hawkins' Southeastern Buys 4 Stocks in 4th Quarter

    Southeastern Asset Management recently disclosed its portfolio updates for the third quarter of 2019. Founded by Mason Hawkins (Trades, Portfolio) in 1975, the Memphis, Tennessee-based firm manages the Longleaf Partners Funds. GuruFocus has detected 4 Warning Sign with WMB.

  • Warren Buffett is 'almost certain' that stocks will beat bonds over time if rates stay low
    Yahoo Finance

    Warren Buffett is 'almost certain' that stocks will beat bonds over time if rates stay low

    While Warren Buffett doesn't prognosticate on where interest rates are heading, the legendary 89-year-old investor expects stocks to continue to outperform bonds over time. Our perhaps jaundiced view is that the pundits who opine on these subjects reveal, by that very behavior, far more about themselves than they reveal about the future. What we can say is that if something close to current rates should prevail over the coming decades and if corporate tax rates also remain near the low level businesses now enjoy, it is almost certain that equities will over time perform far better than long-term, fixed-rate debt instruments,” Buffett wrote in Berkshire Hathaway's (BRK-A, BRK-B) widely-read a...

  • Why Warren Buffett wants you to ignore Berkshire's $53.7 billion gain on stocks
    Yahoo Finance

    Why Warren Buffett wants you to ignore Berkshire's $53.7 billion gain on stocks

    Warren Buffett cautions investors against putting too much emphasis on Berkshire Hathaway's (BRK-A, BRK-B) $81.4 billion in net earnings for 2019. During the period, the company run by Buffett reported $53.7 billion in unrealized gains on its equity investments. That $53.7 billion gain requires comment,” Buffett said.

  • Michael Bloomberg says it’s not so ‘simple’ to produce his tax returns — here’s what most high-income tax returns have in common

    Michael Bloomberg says it’s not so ‘simple’ to produce his tax returns — here’s what most high-income tax returns have in common

    Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former New York City mayor running for the Democratic presidential nod, says he will release his tax returns — but that's no easy feat. “I can't go to TurboTax,” Bloomberg, the founder and CEO of the global media and financial data company Bloomberg L.P., told Democratic debate moderators on Wednesday night. Bloomberg, who is worth $65.2 billion according to Forbes, said he makes money from all over the globe, so his tax payments are complex.

  • This Is What a Comfortable Retirement Will Cost in Your State

    This Is What a Comfortable Retirement Will Cost in Your State

    To be more precise, you'd need to save $2,017,597.95 to comfortably cover living expenses for 20 years in retirement. It takes over $100,000 per year to comfortably live in Washington thanks to high housing costs of $44,704 and the highest cost of groceries in the nation. California A comfortable retirement costs: $85,893.44 a year Costs in the Golden State are exceedingly high, primarily due to housing costs at about double the national average and the second-highest transportation costs in the country.

  • Appian Corporation Just Reported Yearly Earnings: Have Analysts Changed Their Mind On The Stock?
    Simply Wall St.

    Appian Corporation Just Reported Yearly Earnings: Have Analysts Changed Their Mind On The Stock?

    It's been a mediocre week for Appian Corporation (NASDAQ:APPN) shareholders, with the stock dropping 19% to US$48.65 in the week since its latest full-year results. Appian reported revenues of US$260m, in line with expectations, but it unfortunately also reported (statutory) losses of US$0.77 per share, which were slightly larger than expected. After the latest results, the eight analysts covering Appian are now predicting revenues of US$297.3m in 2020.

  • Business

    Stocks Drop on the Week but Still Look Bubbly. Time to Prepare for a Correction.

    The last time we got to these levels, the bubble burst and a 50%-plus global bear market began,” Consider the trading action in the market's most popular stocks. The FAANGs— (FB) (ticker: FB), (AAPL) (AAPL), (AMZN) (AMZN), (NFLX) (NFLX), and Google parent (GOOGL) (GOOGL)—are up 10% year to date, adding more than $330 billion in market value to the S&P 500. What's more, the average price/earnings ratio for FAANG stocks has jumped to 35 times estimated earnings from 21 times last year.

  • Biotech Stock Crumbles Despite Esperion Nabbing A Key Drug Approval
    Investor's Business Daily

    Biotech Stock Crumbles Despite Esperion Nabbing A Key Drug Approval

    Shares of Esperion Therapeutics crumbled Friday after the biotech company's cholesterol medicine gained Food and Drug Administration approval — with some caveats. The cholesterol medicine formerly known as bempedoic acid will sell as Nexletol, a once-daily oral treatment for high LDL cholesterol. The drug is specifically approved for patients with a genetic form of high cholesterol or a type of cardiovascular disease.

  • 3 Marijuana Stocks Poised to Lead a Sector Rebound

    3 Marijuana Stocks Poised to Lead a Sector Rebound

    As the Canadian cannabis market continues to fail to meet sales projections, the licensed producers (LPs) with the best balance sheets are poised to lead a market rebound. With both Aurora Cannabis and Tilray implementing restructurings, the industry could see a void in certain markets providing opportunities for companies with the ability to fund growth initiatives. Based on the Aurora restructuring, the company is exiting several international markets along with shifting a focus to a value brand.