According to a recent study summarized on Medscape.com,  about 50% of all patients don’t fill their prescriptions.  It is estimated that $100 billion dollars in unnecessary hospitalizations and $177 billion dollars total in direct and indirect health care costs are a result of people not taking their prescribed medications.  But why?  Why don’t people fill their prescriptions?

Some say it’s a lack of education – patients do not understand why they need the medicine so they don’t use it.  Or patients are prescribed medication that they have adverse reactions to and rather than discuss them with their doctor, they just quit taking it.  A lot of it could just be forgetfulness, especially if the doctor hands the patient a paper prescription that they have to deliver to the pharmacy and then wait for.  And of course there is the issue of cost – many people do not fill their prescriptions because they cannot afford them. 

Electronic prescriptions can help the problem but do not solve it – still about 22% of all e-prescriptions are never picked up.  Hopefully provisions in the health care reform act, such as the closing of the Medicare donut hole in prescription drug coverage, can assist people with the cost of their medications.  But I think it really comes down to education – doctors taking more time to describe to patients why the medication is important, even life saving, for them to take.  And for doctors to make sure they are prescribing medications that are indeed necessary.

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