Pub’s Window May/June 2017
<!–– The Adherence Challenge ––>
A lot of attention is being given to the topic of medication adherence. Without doubt people not following the prescribed regimen of their prescriptions is one of the drivers for the high cost of healthcare.

Pharmacists, more so than any other provider, can help move the needle on patient adherence. Pharmacy system vendors have given pharmacists the tools to remind people that they have refills coming due and to remind them to pick up these prescriptions. We have medication synchronization programs that more and more pharmacists are implementing for those prescriptions that they can sync up to refill on a specific date. This not only increases dispensing efficiency, but also serves as a patient convenience — not as many trips to the pharmacy — and it serves to increase adherence.

But there are still challenges, or should I say obstacles, that are beyond the reach of pharmacists. There was an article in the April 18 issue of The New York Times entitled “The Cost of Not Taking Your Medicine.” The article pointed out that all the present-day emphasis on diet and exercise convinces people that they don’t have to take medications. According to a recent review on the topic published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, studies have shown that 20% to 30% of prescriptions are never filled and approximately 50% of drugs prescribed for chronic illness are not taken as prescribed. There are quirky reasons people give for not taking their medications. The Times article pointed out several. They are not experiencing any symptoms, so why take the medication? They hear about side effects from other people on the medication and decide not to take it. They see it as a sign of weakness to be on a medication. They don’t want chemicals in their body. But the big one, in my mind. is that they cannot afford the cost. Pharmacists have no control over this element.

Adherence packaging of multiple medications to avoid missed doses and to clarify which pills to take and when is something else many pharmacists are doing for caregivers and patients themselves.

Pharmacists are certainly benefiting from the technology tools available to them to encourage adherence, and having high adherence rates can be a positive for a pharmacy’s star rating. So there is ample incentive for pharmacists to be very proactive.

The sad part is that pharmacists are not getting recognition for their efforts. There was no mention of the contribution being made by pharmacists in the Times article. I wonder what the nonadherence rate would be without pharmacists in the equation and without the technology tools they are using to address the problem. When are pharmacists going to get the press they deserve? CT