Americans score poorly on medication use

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Talk about a dose of bad medicine.

Americans on average earned only a C+ grade in terms of taking their medication properly, according to a new patient survey out Tuesday from the National Community Pharmacists Association.

And the new report, called “Medication Adherence in America: A National Report Card,” found that one in seven adults with chronic conditions — the equivalent of more than 10 million adults — received an F grade. Collectively, one-third of overall respondents received either a D or F.

The report card calculated grades based on an average of answers to questions on nine non-adherent behaviors. They were: whether or not in the past 12 months patients failed to fill a prescription; neglected to have a prescription refilled; missed a dose; took a lower dose than prescribed; took a higher dose than prescribed; stopped a prescription early; took an old medication for a new problem without consulting a doctor; took someone else’s medicine; or forgot whether they’d taken a medication.

National Community Pharmacists Association CEO B. Douglas Hoey said in a statement that “anything less than an A on medication adherence is concerning” because proper prescription drug use can improve patient health outcomes and lower health care costs.

According to research from the New England Healthcare Institute, cited by NCPA, non-adherence adds an estimated $290 billion annually to the health care system.

The survey was conducted among a national sample of 1,020 adults age 40 and older who have received a prescription for a chronic medical condition.

Researchers also said that survey results may actually understate the non-adherence problem due to the self-reported nature of the answers and potential reluctance among some individuals to admit to undesirable behaviors.

The biggest predictor of medication adherence was patients’ personal connection (or lack thereof) with a pharmacist or pharmacy staff. Patients of independent community pharmacies reported the highest level of personal connection (89 percent agreeing that pharmacist or staff “knows you pretty well”), followed by large chains (67 percent) and mail order (36 percent).

“Pharmacists can help patients and caregivers overcome barriers to effectively and consistently follow medication regimens,” Hoey said. 

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