America gets a C+ on medication adherence

America has received a report card on its medication adherence, and the grade isn't exactly worthy of being put on the refrigerator--C+, with one in seven receiving a failing grade.

In the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) report card, released Tuesday, the group points out that treatment of chronic disease, an expensive part of healthcare in America, is struggling because many chronically ill patients don't take their medication as prescribed. This is an expensive average grade, the report explains.

"Non-adherence can threaten patients' health individually as well as add vast costs to the health care system--an estimated $290 billion annually," the report states. According to B. Douglas Hoey, chief executive officer of the NCPA, anything less than a grade of A is concerning. "Poor adherence," said Hoey, "may be the most deadly, most costly, and yet most preventable action that can make patients healthier."

The survey looked at adults over age 40 who take medications for a chronic condition daily, which represents 30 percent of adults. The survey's median age was 60, taking an average of four medications a day.

The survey asked whether, in the past year, patients: failed to fill or refill, missed a dose, took a lower or higher dose than prescribed, stopped a prescription early, took an old medication for something else without consulting a doctor, took someone else's medicine or forgot whether they'd taken medication.

Survey authors pointed out that if anything, the report understates non-adherence because some adults may not have wanted to admit to their bad habits.

"When non-adherent respondents are asked their reasons for failing to comply with doctors' orders, the most commonly mentioned reason is simply forgetting, cited by more than four in 10 as being a major reason," the survey found. "Other top reasons include running out of medication, being away from home, trying to save money and experiencing side effects."

"Any nonadherence is troubling, given the personal consequences and costs, and this is a fairly dispiriting result," said Gary Langer, president of Langer Research Associates, MedScape Today reports.

To learn more:
- read the report card
- read the MedScape Today article

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