Failing to Take Prescribed Medication: An American Epidemic

Failing to Take Prescribed Medication: An American Epidemic

Americans are facing an epidemic that is 100 percent preventable: “non-adherence to prescribed medication.” The New York Times suggests that this is a widespread problem and is affecting people more than any disease. According to the Annals of Internal Medicine, studies show that 20 to 30 percent of medicine prescriptions are left unfilled and about 50 percent of medications prescribed for chronic diseases are not taken as they are prescribed. It was also reported that people who do take their prescribed medications only take about half of the prescribed dosage.

“This lack of adherence is estimated to cause approximately 125,000 deaths and at least 10 percent of hospitalizations, and to cost the American health care system between $100 billion and $289 billion a year,” The New York Times reported. Drugs cannot work if people do not take them. The article suggests that this partly explains why medications that have done well in studies have failed to perform as well in the commercial market. It also explains why patients do not get better or suffer from relapses.

The article details improvements that can be made to help this epidemic, such as “Multiple drugs for a condition could be combined into one pill or packaged together, or dosing can be simplified. Doctors and pharmacists can use digital technology to interact with patients and periodically reinforce the importance of staying on their medication.” Patients who forget to take drugs can also use apps and devices to help them remember.


Dr. Steven Lipsky

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