By John Norton
According to the research institute NEHI, up to $290 billion a year is wasted on the improper use of medication. When you first read the number, you think it’s a misprint. Surely, we are talking in terms of millions and not billions, right? Unfortunately, the listed number is correct, and is largely the result of patients not taking the right medication, at the right time, the right way.
The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) has aggressively encouraged independent community pharmacies to help patients achieve better medication adherence. For example, NCPA members participate in efforts to address this problem in a variety of ways, such as:
- The Medicare Part D’s Medication Therapy Management (MTM) program for seniors taking multiple medications for multiple chronic diseases;
- The Simplify My Meds™ (SMM) program that synchronizes refills to one day a month with an accompanying review; and
- The Medication Adherence Team Challenge, where NCPA is partnering up with other organizations to encourage the next generation of pharmacists to find innovative solutions for attacking this problem.
MTM and SMM are two successful adherence programs that are gaining greater patient participation each year. While I don’t have a crystal ball, I believe there will be even more powerful adherence programs in the future. Many ground-breaking developments have come from college and graduate students (i.e., Facebook, Google, etc.), so we should be excited by the possibilities of the third annual Medication Adherence Team Challenge. As the press release announcing the launch of the contest earlier this month explains:
“A month-long inter-collegiate competition among health profession student teams and faculty for creating solutions to raise awareness about medication adherence as a critical public health issue. The Challenge, coordinated by the National Consumers League (NCL), America’s pioneer consumer group and the lead organization on the national Script Your Future campaign, is returning to university campuses across the country after a successful two years of student innovation.”
“With nearly three out of four Americans not taking their medications as directed—which results in serious health consequences, especially for people with chronic diseases—the National Consumers League and its partners in the Script Your Future campaign are managing a 3-year public education program to raise awareness of the importance of medication adherence. The Challenge is part of Script Your Future, which was launched in 2011 by NCL with more than 130 public and private stakeholder organizations.”
This year’s Challenge is sponsored by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) Foundation, the American Medical Association (AMA), the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA), American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), and the American Pharmacists Association (APhA).”
If the past is prologue, then this Medication Adherence Team Challenge should yield robust participation and exciting results. Last year’s winners—St. Louis College of Pharmacy, University of Charleston School of Pharmacy, University of the Pacific Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy & Health Sciences, Touro University College of Pharmacy California, and The University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy—were announced on May 16, 2013. Each team captured the most important aspects of driving medication adherence, especially when it comes to raising public awareness as was the case, for example, with the St. Louis College of Pharmacy appearing on morning television news shows with Miss Missouri USA to promote their events.
The hope is that this year’s participation level exceeds the contest’s 2013 numbers that saw more than 1,700 future health care professionals hold 200 events in 35 states and the District of Columbia, where they counselled over 12,000 patients and reached more than three million patients.
NCPA is proud to be a partner in the Medication Adherence Team Challenge, which is a natural extension of our Pharmacists Advancing Medication Adherence (PAMA) initiative. Pharmacists and student pharmacists recognize that they are uniquely positioned to make a difference in turning around this troubling health care trend. They are clinically trained medication experts whose job description not only includes dispensing medication, but offering personalized counseling and clinical services to ensure patients are getting the best results. The Medication Adherence Team Challenge allows NCPA to leverage our student relationships in pharmacy schools across the country to promote improved adherence. Hopefully, when NEHI releases a future study of medication waste near the end of this decade, the trend line will be heading in the right direction.