A recent article in the Specialty Pharmacy Times stated that medication adherence is a constant struggle for pharmacists, especially those treating patients with conditions that require high-touch, high-cost specialty drugs. Missing just a single dose of medication may cause adverse health events or cost additional dollars spent on these patients. Preventing adverse events and extra costs are an important goal of specialty pharmacists.
Optimal adherence is linked to improved outcomes and reduced mortality for patients with chronic diseases, while non-adherence has been observed to increase the rate of hospitalization, poor outcomes, mortality, and health care costs, according to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Current estimates indicate that of the prescriptions that are actually filled, only half are taken as prescribed. Patients typically struggle to adhere to therapies due to issues with timing, dosage, frequency, and duration, the CDC reported.
Improving medication adherence may save hundreds of billions of dollars each year, while also improving the health of numerous patients; however, significant barriers inhibit optimizing medication adherence and these factors vary among different patients and for each disease state, according to the CDC. A one-size-fits-all approach to medication adherence likely would not reach a majority of patients.
The CDC said that patient-related factors that impact adherence typically worsen with more complex drugs. These patients may forget to take their medications or not understand doses and scheduling, according to the report.
In the report, the CDC suggested multiple ways in which pharmacists could improve adherence, including the use of pillboxes and blister packs to keep medications organized in a very straightforward manner. Electronic pill monitors have also been shown to reduce unintentional non-adherence.
The CDC report stated that technology—specifically e-prescribing software—can help encourage patients to fill initial and recurrent prescriptions and also be used to track medication adherence. Additionally, the CDC said that reducing financial barriers has also been proven to increase medication adherence. While reducing or eliminating co-payments may appear costly upfront, it may mitigate potential health events that necessitate more expensive medical procedures later in life. The CDC concluded that understanding the causes of nonadherence and implementing cost-effective approaches that are applicable to various populations are critical in improving medication adherence.
As a pharmacist by trade, I agree with the CDC. Here is a blog I posted a couple month’s ago where I outlined the benefits of e-prescribing.
The entire CDC article can be found in the November/December issue of Specialty Pharmacy Times.