Retail pharmacy groups applauded a pair of events that turned the spotlight on the importance of medication adherence to improving health care outcomes while scaling back costs.

medication adherence, National Consumers League, NCL, Script Your Future, Regina Benjamin, U.S. Surgeon General, health care, prescription medications, Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease, PFCD, Mike Crapo, Steve Anderson, National Association of Chain Drug Stores, NACDS, B. Douglas Hoey, National Community Pharmacists Association, NCPA, pharmacies, pharmacist, Hayden Bosworth, Sally Greenberg, medication therapy management, MTM, health coaching, health care costs, Ken Thorpe, Pharmacy Coaching Program, Frannie McGowan, Kroger, Mimi Johnson, Barry Malinowski, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Ohio, Elizabeth Jones, Dialysis Patient Citizens Board of Directors

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Medication adherence efforts win kudos

May 11th, 2011

WASHINGTON – Retail pharmacy groups applauded a pair of events that turned the spotlight on the importance of medication adherence to improving health care outcomes while scaling back costs.

The National Consumers League (NCL) on Wednesday launched Script Your Future, a public education campaign designed to raise awareness among patients about the consequences of not taking medication as directed. Regina Benjamin, the U.S. Surgeon General, helped kick off the initiative at The George Washington University Hospital, describing nonadherence to prescription medications as a public health concern.

Also on Wednesday, the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD), in partnership with WellPoint Inc., hosted a Capitol Hill briefing titled "Partnerships in Health: Private Sector Solutions to Improve Medication Adherence," which featured keynote address from Sen. Mike Crapo (R., Idaho) and a panel discussion about the benefits of improving medication adherence.

"Poor medication adherence is costing Americans their good health and is costing our nation an estimated $290 billion each year in avoidable health care costs," Steve Anderson, president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and chairman of the NACDS Foundation, said in a statement. "Improved adherence will contribute to lower overall health care costs and increased quality of life. Script Your Future focuses national attention on this issue and helps pharmacists and other health care professionals support consumers in taking their medications as prescribed."

The National Community Pharmacists Association said Wednesday that attention to patient adherence to their medications "must become the standard of practice for pharmacists.

"Our hope is in five years actions taken by pharmacists will have resulted in measurable improvement in patient adherence," stated B. Douglas Hoey, executive vice president and CEO at NCPA. "We also realize that this cannot be achieved by NCPA alone, so we reached out to schools of pharmacy to mentor the next generation of pharmacists who will shape the profession and positively affect medication adherence, linked arms with consumer groups who share our vision of healthier patients, and gained the attention of lawmakers on the added value community pharmacists provide in improving patient outcomes and impact they can have on lowering health care spending. That's why it was important to support the National Consumers League's Script Your Future campaign and the Partnerships to Fight Chronic Disease's efforts to engage the private sector in identifying solutions to improve medication adherence."

The centerpiece of the Script Your Future campaign is a website,, that provides tools to support patient efforts to adhere to their prescribed medicine. Tools include free text message reminders, sample questions, medication lists and charts to keep track of medicines, and fact sheets on common chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma and high blood pressure. A sister site with adherence tools for health care professionals,, was launched in March.

Over the next three years, the campaign will provide materials through partnerships with pharmacies, hospitals, medical offices and clinics, and health insurance plans; host community events and health fairs; and gauge medication adherence awareness through research.

"Our national challenge is to prevent poor health outcomes and to become a healthy and fit nation. One way is for the health care community and patients to come together to address the serious issue of medication nonadherence," Benjamin commented at the Script Your Future launch. "As a family physician, I know that conversations between clinicians and their patients are key to patients understanding why taking their medication correctly is so important, particularly in chronic health conditions such as diabetes, asthma and high blood pressure. The tools offered through NCL's Script Your Future campaign empower patients to talk with their health care teams about their medication questions and concerns."

Script Your Future is supported by a coalition of nearly 100 public and private partners and sponsors, including health care professional groups, chronic disease groups, health insurance plans, pharmaceutical companies, business organizations and consumer groups, as well as researchers and government agencies. The campaign was informed by research outlined in a new briefing paper, "Medication Adherence: Making the Case for Increased Awareness," co-authored by Hayden Bosworth at Duke University Medical Center and the National Consumers League.

"There are many different reasons why people don't take their medicine as directed, from concerns about side effects to the out-of-pocket costs of prescriptions," explained Sally Greenberg, executive director of NCL. "But the consequences for patients are the same. Nonadherence puts patients, especially those with chronic conditions, at risk for serious complications."

At the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease briefing, innovators in the private sector highlighted the development of medication therapy management (MTM) programs that engage participants through health coaching, education, and reducing out-of-pocket health care costs.

"We are pleased that the second event in our Partnerships in Health series provided a great opportunity to collectively show effective programs that improve the health of chronic disease patients and reduce overall costs," stated Dr. Ken Thorpe, executive director of PFCD. "I have often said that chronic disease doesn't need to be a drain on the health care system. Long-term solutions are available, and today's information shows that these programs not only work to lower costs but also improve health for millions of Americans."

Besides Sen. Crapo and Thorpe, panelists included Frannie McGowan, clinical development manager at The Kroger Co.; Mimi Johnson, director of health policy for the National Consumers League; Barry Malinowski, medical director at Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Ohio; and Elizabeth Jones of the Dialysis Patient Citizens Board of Directors.

"By coordinating the relationship between our members with hypertension and diabetes and their pharmacist, the Pharmacy Coaching Program can make significant health improvements by empowering and educating members about better medication adherence," noted Malinowski. "We are proud to collaborate with the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease highlighting the benefits of a program that has shown to improve the health of people with chronic disease."

PFCD reported that three out of four Americans report that they don't always take their medicines as directed, and that 33% to 67% of medication-related hospital admissions are linked to poor adherence, which adds up to an estimated $300 billion a year in medical and other costs.

"As federal leaders search for opportunities to generate health care savings and better outcomes, improving adherence offers a promising target," Thorpe added. "We shouldn't wait to broadly implements programs that not only work for current patients, but also have the potential to stave off chronic disease for millions of Americans."