America's other drug problem: prescriptions not taken
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(BPT) -- America has a serious
drug problem, but it's not the one you might be thinking about. The
problem is not illegal drugs or drug abuse, but rather an alarming
percentage of Americans who do not take their prescriptions as
instructed. Approximately 125,000 deaths per year in the United
States can be attributed to medication non-adherence, according to
the National Pharmaceutical Council.
The problem of non-adherence is not new, but it is getting a closer
look as experts seek to reduce costs and improve the effectiveness
and efficiency of our health system. Data suggests that roughly half
of the 2 billion prescriptions filled each year in America are not
taken correctly. For particularly vulnerable Americans such as the
elderly and those suffering from multiple chronic conditions,
adherence rates are even worse. Even with life-threatening diseases
such as cancer, patients are non-adherent to medication.
impact of non-adherence, beyond patient outcomes, is a significant
source of waste in our health care system. Unnecessary medical costs
resulting from patients not taking their medication as prescribed,
such as ER visits, hospitalizations and extra tests, cost our system
over $300 billion annually according to the New England Healthcare
Many factors contribute to poor medication adherence. In some
patients, non-adherence is a choice, while in others non-adherence
is quite unintentional. For some people, a lack of symptoms, coupled
with denial, high out-of-pocket costs or concerns over potential
side effects make them less inclined to even fill their
prescriptions, let alone adhere to medications. It is estimated that
as many as 22 percent of all prescriptions filled are not picked up
from the pharmacy.
For these patients, better adherence starts at the doctor's
office. Physicians, nurses and other caregivers can help by better
educating the patient about the importance of following directions,
and by creating a treatment plan that fits patients' needs and
lifestyles. Emphasizing the details on how and why patients should
take their medications properly, including details on possible
interactions and refill requirements, can be a good first line of
defense against the problem of non-adherence.
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However, experts also agree that a substantial portion of the
non-adherence problem is inadvertent. The accidental misuse of
prescription medications is largely a result of complexity,
confusion and general forgetfulness.
"Many patients are dealing with multiple medications, all in
nearly identical containers, but each one with a different set of
dosage instructions," says Ian Salditch, CEO of Medicine-On-Time.
"It's a recipe for mistakes -- all of which could be addressed
through better prescription packaging."
There are a variety of high-tech monitoring systems aimed at
improving adherence, including pills with digestible sensors. To
date, strict monitoring has been seen by consumers as being overly
intrusive. Solutions such as financial incentives and greater
screening offer promise. But Salditch has focused on the low-tech,
common-sense approach of simplified packaging and has achieved
Using Medicine-On-Time, pharmacists will sort and organize
medications into personalized pill cups labeled with the day, date
and time to take them. Pharmacists provide the patients with pill
cups organized into medication calendars. In addition, the packaging
is designed to be easily opened by the frail and elderly.
Background information and specific details about customized
packaging is available on the company's website,
Consumers can also find the closest retail pharmacy offering the
Medicine-On-Time system and take advantage of offers at