October 7, 2013

Americans Earned a C+ in Proper Medicine Use. How Would YOU Score?

A recent article on the HealthDay site reported that Americans scored a C+ in proper use of medications. Not a very impressive result.

The mediocre grade is the result of a survey by a pharmacists' group of more than 1,000 adults, aged 40 and up, who take medicine for a chronic condition. The survey asked nine questions about participants’ activity over the past year. Did they:
  • Fail to fill a prescription?
  • Neglect to refill a prescription?
  • Miss a dose?
  • Take a lower-than-prescribed dose?
  • Take a higher-than-prescribed dose?
  • Stop a prescription early?
  • Take an old med for a new problem without consulting the doctor?
  • Take someone else’s medicine?
  • Forget whether or not they had taken a medication?
How Would YOU Have Scored?
I’m careful with my meds. I take great interest in my own healthcare (my doctors say they like that, and I hope they mean it). Still – although I’m usually pretty careful about consulting my doctors before tweaking my meds or dosages -- I’m not sure I would have scored much higher.

Bringing home a C+ report card is bad enough. Worse, one in seven participants flunked the test. In America, that’s the equivalent of ten million people . . . not an encouraging statistic for our already-in-crisis healthcare system.

It gets worse still. The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) suggests our national C+ grade is probably lower, since many survey participants might not want to admit improper medicine use.

One particular issue – a real personal connection with pharmacy staff -- seems to be the biggest predictor of how well subjects scored. 89% of participants who used an independent community pharmacy said their pharmacy group knew them “pretty well.” 67% of subjects who used a pharmacy chain made that claim. For people using a mail order service, 36% reported feeling well known by those who filled their prescriptions – a number that strikes me as high. How can you feel a real personal connection with a mail order service?

Affordability, Patient Knowledge, Side Effects
Other factors affected how well participants scored on the survey, including:
  • Were the meds affordable?
  • Did people feel it was important to take their meds as prescribed?
  • Were participants well-informed about their health?
  • Did the drugs’ side effects play any role?
NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey offered these predictable comments:
Proper prescription drug use can improve patient health outcomes and lower health care costs so anything less than an A on medication adherence is concerning. Pharmacists can help patients and caregivers overcome barriers to effectively and consistently follow medication regimens. Indeed, independent community pharmacists in particular may be well-suited to boost patient adherence given their close connection with patients and their caregivers.
Here are just a few resources offered on NIH’s Senior Health page:
Think you've got it all figured out? Try NIH's taking medicine quiz.

Here are a few little tricks I use to help me with my meds.

Got any tricks of your own to share?

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