The term medication compliance (a.k.a. medication adherence) refers to patients who take medications according to physicians’ prescribing recommendations. Following Doctors orders seems simple enough, but there is growing concern in the health industry today over medication non-adherence. There is mounting evidence that non adherence is associated with adverse outcomes for patients and higher costs of overall health care. While there are several factors that contribute to medication noncompliance, they each have one thing in common: delayed patient recovery.
Contributors to Non-Compliance
If you talk to patients who don’t comply with their prescriber’s medication plan, you will encounter several reasons that precipitate non-compliance, some of which are more understandable than others. Below are five common factors that prevent patients from being medication compliant.
- Fear of Possible Side Effects
Many patients consult websites such as webmd.com to investigate the possible side effects of a medication before they take the first dose. The problem, of course, is that such a website often lists every conceivable side effect of taking the medication, regardless of the percentage of occurrence of the side effects in the patient population that takes the medicine regularly.
For example, the possible side effects of the medication Tamiflu include hallucinations, respiratory distress, and anxiety. Such fearful outcomes are often enough to make patients avoid taking a single dose of the medication, much less take it on a regular basis, as prescribed.
- Feeling “Better” Than Before
Most patients start medication therapy by adhering to prescribing protocols, for they experience a health problem that the medication is designed to alleviate or cure. In many cases, therapeutic effects occur within a timeframe of a few days or weeks. When patients start to see improvement in their condition, they often stop taking the medication that helped them get there.
In many cases, however, prescriptions are prescribed on a permanent basis to keep the medical condition under control. For example, taking Lithium to treat manic depression often requires a lifelong commitment to the medication. When patients stop taking the medicine, their condition often re-emerges in full force, which contributes to statistics for poor patient outcomes, and drives up healthcare costs because the patient is repeatedly treated for the same condition.
- Reducing Medication Cost
Some medications have such a high copay that patients can’t foresee taking them long-term, or even filling a single prescription. To use the example of Tamiflu again, a single prescription for the medication often requires a copay in excess of $50, and this is after insurance benefits kick in. For people who live on a limited income, the cost of medication can lead to non-compliance.
Thankfully, patients have viable strategies for reducing the cost of expensive medications. One strategy is to contact the drug company for help affording the medicine. AstraZeneca, for example, has a program in which financially needy patients can receive a significant discount on drug costs. There are also several free drug cards (e.g., Missouri Drug Card) that can offer significant savings at the pharmacy counter for certain types of generic medications.
For example, Missouri Drug Card can reduce the cost of the generic version of the medication Seroquel (a.k.a. quetiapine furmate), from a price of over $200 to a price of under $20, even if hundreds of milligrams of the medication must be taken daily. To find out which drug cards offer the most cost effectiveness for the medication you need, speak with your local pharmacist.
- Difficulty Following Dosing Protocols
The easier medications are to take as prescribed, the greater the percentage of patients who achieve medication compliance. Taking a single dose per day is the protocol that is easiest to follow, but many medicines must be taken multiple times a day at set intervals. One method for increasing medication compliance in this situation is to use drug packaging whose design helps simplify complex dosing protocols by providing dosing instructions and medication reminders.
- Desire for Increased Control
Since the internet became the primary source for getting information about medications, many patients walk into the doctor’s office already knowing what medications they are willing or not willing to take. This is why many physicians advise their patients to “stay off the internet” when it comes to researching the efficacy of a prescribed medication and its possible side effects.
In some cases, patients and doctors agree on the medication that the latter should take, but there are also instances when patients refuse to take a certain medication, request a replacement medicine, and thus experience poorer health outcomes than patients who rely on physicians and pharmacies for drug information, as opposed to getting it from the web.
Contact Us Today
At Drug Package, we emphasize creating intelligent drug packaging solutions that help increase medication compliance, improve patient outcomes, and thus reduce healthcare costs. Each year, the U.S. healthcare system is estimated to lose roughly 300 billion due to medication noncompliance. We are dedicated to decreasing that number, and ultimately eradicating it.
There are a multitude of reasons why patients don’t comply with their prescriber’s plan for using prescription medications, with the five above being some of the most common ones. We help improve medication compliance by providing custom packaging solutions, such as specially designed blister packs, that make it easy to access medications and includes important information that helps patients take their medications as prescribed.
For more information about our products and services, call us today at (800) 325-6137, or refer to the contact form on our website. We look forward to helping you increase patient medication compliance to improve patient outcomes, and thus help mitigate annual healthcare costs.