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Americans barely above average in prescription adherence, poll shows

Posted On Wed, June 26, 2013

When it comes to how faithful Americans are with taking their medications that have been prescribed to them by their doctors, they make a passing grade, but only by the slimmest of margins.

According to what's believed to be a one-of-a-kind survey, "Medication Adherence in America: A National Report Card," the National Community Pharmacists Association indicates that Americans who are at least 40 years of age receive a C-plus in regards to taking their medicine in the manner in which it was prescribed to them by their doctor or pharmacist. Additionally, nearly one in every seven receives a failing grade.

In order to determine how well patients did with their medication regimen, researchers had respondents fill out a questionnaire that asked them various questions about their prescription use over the past year, such as if they had failed to have a prescription refilled at the appropriate time, if they didn't fill one at all, dosed lower or higher than what was directed, stopped taking the prescription without being told or took someone else's medication, among other factors.

B. Douglas Hoey, CEO for the NCPA, noted that one might think that young people or adolescents would be the ones who weren't adhering to medication recommendations, but it appears to be a pervasive problem among grown adults.

"Proper prescription drug use can improve patient health outcomes and lower healthcare costs, so anything less than an A on medication adherence is concerning," said Hoey.

Adherence to prescribed directions is not just an issue among middle-age and older adults, however. When taking into account all of the 1,000 adults who respondents to the poll, one-third received a grade of D or F.

The report also looked at what factors played a role in participants' ability to stick with their prescriptions for as long as they were told to keep taking them. Among other factors, the biggest predictor was related to patients' relationship with their physicians. In other words, the more conversant and in good standing they were with them, the more likely they were to adhere and not vary from their regimen.

How to keep prescription drug costs affordable
However, the next most significant determinant of respondents' inclination to continue taking their medicine was related to cost, or the affordability of their prescriptions. The following tips provided by WebMD may help people save money on their pharmaceuticals.

One of the best ways to get a prescription for less is asking a pharmacist or doctor if there are any generic versions of the medicine. Corey Sawaya, an Ohio-based pharmacist, told WebMD that close to 80 percent of all drugs that are approved by the Federal Drug Administration have generic alternatives. Many cost more than four times less than the name brand.

Something else that patients may want to consider is talking to their doctor about how much prescription medicines are costing them out of pocket. While health insurance rates typically cover these expenses, there are some plans that don't cover certain treatments. If this is the case, the doctor may be able to prescribe something that's cheaper but still effective or recommend getting in touch with the pharmaceutical company. Some drug makers will provide subsidies for those who qualify.

Richard Sagall, president and co-founder of a Gloucester, Massachusetts-based nonprofit, told WebMD that some pharmacies may charge more for medicines than others. Similar to shopping around for insurance quotes, consumers should also shop around for pharmacies. He also stated that consumers shouldn't be shy about negotiating a price, which pharmacists often do in order to maintain a reliable base of patients.

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