Through blogs and comments, patients and experts explore what it takes to find good health care and make the most of it.

The Whole Package: Improving Medication Adherence


Conversation Continues feature ongoing discussions or news on current health topics with links to related materials.'  They are part of the Center for Advancing Health's portfolio of free, evidence-based coverage of what it takes to find good care and make the most of it.'  Written by Goldie Pyka, CFAH Communications Manager.


"Think about it: Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of research is translated into a drug that costs millions of dollars to produce, which in turn cost hundreds of dollars for a clinician to prescribe and tens of dollars for our health insurance to pay for ' but the potential of that drug to alter the course of a disease depends on the actions of an individual'If we don't take the drugs as directed, we don't realize their benefit." ' Jessie Gruman, May 18, 2011 (full article)

According to a white paper released by the Center for Health Transformation, approximately 125,000 Americans die annually due to poor medication adherence, as many as 40 percent of patients do not adhere to their treatment regimens, and up to 20 percent of all new prescriptions go unfilled.'  Here are some recent studies/ideas designed to support our ability to participate in care plans that include medications.

Current over-the-counter (OTC) drug labels contain important, helpful information such as the drug's expiration date, dosing instructions, active ingredients, and more.'  And virtually all prescription drugs come with a packet of information ' usually stapled to the bag given to you at the pharmacy.'  But recently, proposals have been made to enhance prescription drug information by providing more details on the comparative effectiveness of the drug and require that this additional information be printed plainly and clearly ' similar to the nutrition facts panel on processed food packaging.'  Will having access to convenient and straightforward information on drug study results help patients?

A new systematic review from The Cochrane Collaboration has found that simple reminder packaging can help patients take medications as directed ' especially those with chronic illnesses ' and that methods such as prefilled pill boxes and foil-backed pill packets can increase the number of pills patients take by 11 to 13 percent.'  But Tom Hubbard, a senior program director at NEHI, an independent health policy institute, noted that, 'It is apparent to a lot of practitioners in the field that effective adherence interventions are highly dependent on the health condition and the characteristics of the patient."'  In other words, not all reminder methods work for all people.' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' 

At Kaiser Permanente in Colorado where patients are part of an "integrated" health system (where the pharmacy and doctor's offices are part of the same system and are linked using electronic medical records), medication adherence was also greatly improved.'  "Given that adherence to medications is directly associated with improved clinical outcomes, higher quality of life and lower health care costs across many chronic conditions, it is important to examine why some people never start the medications their doctors prescribe," said the study's lead author.

We've asked here before if new tools like these can improve medication adherence or our communication with clinicians.'  What do you think?


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Conversation Continues feature ongoing discussions or news on current health topics with links to related materials.  They are part of the Center for Advancing Health’s portfolio of free, evidence-based coverage of what it takes to find good care and make the most of it.

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Prescription Drugs   Health Information Technology   Conversation Continues   Make Good Treatment Decisions   Participate in your Treatment   Inside Healthcare  

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