Poor medication adherence, which is a term describing how well patients follow their doctor’s medical advice about their medications, is a growing problem throughout the United States, as it causes approximately 125,000 deaths every single year and adds an unecessary $290 billion in health care costs annually. Studies show a significant correlation between medication adherence and improved patient treatment outcomes; however, 75% of Americans admit that they don’t always take their medication as instructed by their doctor.
Drugs don’t work in patients who don’t take them. —C. Everett Koop, MD
What is Medication Adherence?
Medication adherence usually refers to whether patients take their medications routinely as prescribed by their doctor (i.e. twice daily at a certain dosage), as well as whether they continue to take their prescribed medication for the full amount of time directed by their doctor (i.e. not stopping earlier than directed). Medication adherence is a growing concern throughout the healthcare industry with doctors, healthcare systems, and other stakeholders (i.e. insurance companies) because of clear proof that it is a widespread problem and clearly related to adverse patient outcomes and higher healthcare costs.
Patients with chronic health conditions earn a worrisome C+ grade in the first National Report Card on Adherence from the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) – a discouraging grade, particularly given the clear evidence of the negative effects of failing to follow the prescribed directions of physicians.
How Much Does Medication Non-Adherence Cost the U.S.?
The total economic impact of medication non-adherence — which contributes to costly health complications, worsening of disease progression, and preventable utilization — has been estimated to be as much as $290 billion. But despite growing recognition of the problem, little progress has been made to improve medication adherence at a population level.
Increased medication adherence not only improves patient outcomes but can also lower the overall cost of care in the United States, according to a review released this month by Avalere Health and funded by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. The review, titled “The Role of Medication Adherence in the U.S. Healthcare System,” suggests that increased medication adherence is one way to address rising health care costs as the population continues to age. – See more on Pharmacy Times website.
Your doctor has the expertise to treat your medical condition, so to maximize the outcome of taking your medications, it is important to take them on the schedule prescribed and at the dosage and frequency instructed by your doctor. If you tend to have trouble with taking your medications as prescribed, here are some helpful tips to help you develop good habits:
- Learn about generic alternatives options for drugs that you are prescribed.
- Remind yourself to take your medication using alarms, sticky notes or a checklist. You also could use a planner to remind yourself about taking your prescription.
- Practice somewhat regular cleaning of your medicine cabinet or closet, including the proper disposal of medicines that you no longer need or ones that have expired.
- If the medications you are prescribed cost too much to afford, ask your doctor to consider alternatives (i.e. generics, other brands, pill-splitting) that can help you. Be sure to use your Prescription Savings Card from Discount Drug Network at the pharmacy to save money on your prescriptions, whether or not you have health insurance. You’ll truly be surprised at how often you’ll save a few dollars, or much more!
- Educate yourself and learn how your medication treats your condition and its role in producing optimal outcomes.
Take control of your health and wellness and make sure you take your medications as directed by your doctor. By doing so, you not only increase the effectiveness of your therapy, but you also reduce costs and medical errors, resulting in easier disease maintenance and management of your wellness.