Taking Your Medicine, Taking It Right

By B. Douglas Hoey, RPh, MBA

The Wall Street Journal recently reported in the paper and on its Health Blog how pharmacists are trying to step up to improve medication adherence among patients, so that they take their medications as prescribed by a doctor.

Among the initiatives they examined is Simplify My Meds, an innovative medication adherence program where a pharmacist synchronizes the refill schedule for a patient who takes several drugs on a regular basis to treat chronic conditions. So, instead of traveling to the pharmacy one week to refill a prescription for high blood pressure and coming back two weeks later when the arthritis medication runs out, those refills are coordinated to come on the same day.

To date, nearly 700 community pharmacies are offering synchronized refills with more than 20,000 patients benefiting from this personalized service offered by NCPA-member pharmacies. Research has confirmed that refill coordination at a single pharmacy is an effective tactic to improve adherence.

Increasingly, medication adherence, or the proper use of medication as prescribed, is an important part of the health care discussion today. First, there is a greater reliance on medication therapy—prescription drugs—for curing and preventing illness. Second, the U.S. population is aging and with that comes more chronic conditions, which may have to be treated for a lifetime. More than one half of all Americans now live with at least one chronic condition.

Ten years ago, the annual cost of poor adherence, such as forgetting to take the drug or not refilling the prescription, was put at $177 billion annually. In 2009, the New England Healthcare Institute updated this estimate to $290 billion in more doctor visits, unnecessary hospitalizations, lost productivity, and the like.

In response to this ballooning problem, NCPA two years ago announced an ambitious and comprehensive five-year plan designed to take on non-adherence. Known as PAMA (Pharmacists Advancing Medication Adherence), the multi-faceted campaign is part of a coordinated effort to improve patient medication adherence rates by leveraging the expertise of community pharmacists—the highly trained, accessible health care professionals you can talk to without an appointment.

If you’d like to take advantage of Simplify My Meds and other personalized patient services, visit your independent community pharmacy. There are more than 23,000 of them. To find the one closest to you, go to the NCPA homepage, click on the “Find Independent Pharmacies” box, and enter your ZIP code. You’ll be glad you did.

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