Failure to Fill Management Medications Affecting Fight against Chronic Diseases

United States earns poor grade in a recently-released national report on medication adherence

DAYTON, Ohio (September 15, 2014) – Medication adherence is a serious problem in the United States mainly because Americans fail to fill prescriptions for important maintenance medications prescribed by their doctors, according to a report by the National Community Pharmacists Association.

The association gave the country a C grade for medication adherence, a term used to describe patients’ willingness to take medication exactly as prescribed by their physicians. One of the top reasons for non-adherence to maintenance medication – drugs used to help control issues such as high blood pressure and high blood sugar – is that a large number of patients don’t fill their original prescription, and only a small percentage of those who do continue with refills.

“Medication adherence is a problem in our society,” said Lauren Roth, MD, of Phillipsburg Family Care. “Many chronic conditions require medications to keep people healthy. When they do not comply with this, it causes their condition to worsen, leading to emergency room visits, hospitalizations and the use of an immense amount of healthcare resources, all of which could have been avoided.”

According to the College of Preventive Medicine, for every 100 prescriptions written, 50 to 70 are filled by the pharmacy, 48 to 66 are picked up by the patient, 25 to 30 are taken properly, and only 15 to 20 are refilled. These numbers are not promising for a society strapped with an ever-increasing burden of chronic health issues, such as diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol, all of which are major contributors to potentially deadly disease processes, said Dr. Roth.

“Prescriptions must be filled on time to prevent a disruption in treatment of chronic conditions,” she said. “For example, if a patient goes without high blood pressure medications for a few weeks, the blood pressure is likely to rise during that time, and depending on how high it gets, can put the patient at risk for stroke and heart attack.”

Dr. Roth said patients need to understand the importance of taking prescription medications as part of the overall therapy to control medical issues. Continuing on that regimen is also important. The following tips can help patients stay faithful with refilling medication:

Chart It – Keep a medicine refill chart that includes a medicine’s name, the dosage, the next date it is due to be refilled and how many refills are left. MyChart – the patient portal to electronic medical records – is also a helpful tool. MyChart allows patients to quickly check medicine information by simply accessing it on the Internet.

Refill in Advance – Think ahead by enrolling in a pharmacy’s automated refill system. Don’t wait for medication to run out before considering a refill, particularly if a mail-order pharmacy system is being used. This may require a week or more for delivery.

Go Digital – Consider new technology such as apps, text alerts and email updates for reminders that refills are coming due, or even when it’s time to take the next dose of medication.

Communicate With Your Doctor – Management of chronic illnesses often requires a routine follow-up appointment with a primary care physician. Keep those visits so that refills are written on-time. If a visit is not required, consider requesting a refill through MyChart. This can be done any time, day or night.

Most importantly, patients should feel comfortable discussing any concerns or issues with their medication. Changes in life circumstances – such as loss of income – can put a toll on patients to pay for their medications.

“Many people struggle to keep their medications filled,” Dr. Roth said. “The most common reason is cost. Patients are reluctant to admit that they cannot afford their medications and physicians are not always aware of the cost of medications prescribed. It is important to be honest with your doctor because there are always options.”

For more information about the importance of prescription refills or to find a Premier HealthNet doctor visit:

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