There is an out-of-control epidemic in the United States that costs more and affects more people than any disease Americans currently worry about. It’s called nonadherence to prescribed medications, and it is — potentially, at least — 100 percent preventable by the very individuals it afflicts.
The numbers are staggering.“Studies have consistently shown that 20 percent to 30 percent of medication prescriptions are never filled, and that approximately 50 percent of medications for chronic disease are not taken as prescribed,” according to a review in Annals of Internal Medicine. People who do take prescription medications — whether it’s for a simple infection or a life-threatening condition — typically take only about half the prescribed doses.
This lack of adherence, the authors wrote, is estimated to cause approximately 125,000 deaths and at least 10 percent of hospitalizations, and to cost the American health care system $100 billion to $289 billion a year.
Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop put it bluntly: “Drugs don’t work in patients who don’t take them.”
“There are so many reasons patients don’t adhere — the prescription may be too complicated, they get confused, they don’t have symptoms, they don’t like the side effects, they can’t pay for the drug, or they believe it’s a sign of weakness to need medication,” said Dr. William Shrank, chief medical officer at the University of Pittsburgh Health Plan.
“This is why it’s so hard to fix the problem — any measure we try only addresses one factor,”Shrank said.Leave a reply