In line with American Pharmacists Month, the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) is urging consumers to "hold an open dialogue" with their pharmacists about the proper use of prescription drugs and adherence to medication regimens.


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APhA amplifies medication adherence message

October 1st, 2010

WASHINGTON – In line with American Pharmacists Month, the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) is urging consumers to "hold an open dialogue" with their pharmacists about the proper use of prescription drugs and adherence to medication regimens.

APhA said Thursday that its annual public education campaign "Know Your MEDICINE, Know Your PHARMACIST" calls on consumers to get to know their pharmacist, but the effort is being spotlighted in October for American Pharmacists Month to emphasize the link between knowing your pharmacist and the safe and effective use of medications.

Describing nonadherence as "America's other drug problem," APhA reported that noncompliance with prescribed medication regimens results in up to 125,000 deaths and costs the nation's health care system more than $177 billion every year.

The association also noted that in a recent Harvard Medical School study, more than 20% of first-time prescriptions went unfilled and that primary nonadherence — the failure to fill a first prescription — was even higher among patients with chronic diseases, with rates of 31.4% for diabetes patients and 28.4% for hypertension patients.

"Medication adherence is a significant problem for the U.S. health care system, and as any health care provider will tell you, 'Drugs don't work in patients who don't take them,' " commented Thomas Menighan, APhA executive vice president and chief executive officer.

APhA said that examples of nonadherence include delaying or not refilling a prescription; discontinuing a medication before the therapy course is completed; skipping doses and taking more or less of a prescribed medication; altering the dosage schedule or taking a pill at the wrong time; and holding onto partially used or expired medications "just in case." Common reasons why patients don't take medication as prescribed include not believing in the medication's value or its helpfulness, not fully understanding the medication or the routine, and simply forgetting to take the medication.

What's more, APhA pointed out, many consumers may not grasp the implications of taking their medications incorrectly, and the symptoms may not be noticeable or be as minor as a small headache and fatigue. Not adhering properly to a medication regimen may drastically alter the effectiveness of treatment and possibly be life-threatening, especially for those with chronic conditions. For instance, patients with cardiovascular problems who don't adhere to their medications are at increased risk for stroke, heart attack and other cardiac conditions, the association said, adding that diabetics not taking their medications properly face higher risk of complications such as increased blood sugar, amputations, blindness, kidney disease, cardiovascular disease and stroke.

"Pharmacists are the medication experts and are specifically trained to help consumers with their medication issues and questions, including adherence," Menighan stated. "Your pharmacist can help you coordinate a better medication schedule and is available to discuss proper medication usage, food/drug interactions, side effects, dosing, generics and over-the-counter medications, compliance issues and more."

APhA also stressed that consumers should use only one pharmacy and maintain an up-to-date medication list, which can facilitate the monitoring of health care progression and medication adherence.

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