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Medicine is the best medicine; help patients keep taking it

December 07, 2010 By: Nadia Category: HealthCare, Medicine Advice, Medtipster, Prescription News, Prescription Savings

www.Medtipster.com Source: Boston Globe, 12.3.2010

Patients who don’t take their medications are a well-documented problem in medicine. If doctors are to spot patients who might stop complying with prescriptions, it’s vital to have a fuller understanding of why and how it happens.

As many as 40 to 60 percent of those with chronic conditions like high blood pressure, heart failure, or diabetes don’t take their medicines regularly. The reasons vary – some patients never fill their prescriptions; others feel better and stop their drug regimens; in still other cases, side effects or the burden of too many pills discourage patients from refilling their prescriptions. Whatever the motive, failing to take needed drugs leads to worse health and higher spending, as patients land in the hospital for preventable conditions that cost the health care system hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

But a new study this month in the Annals of Internal Medicine, by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, shines the spotlight on another contributor: Patients not picking up prescriptions that have already been filled.

The analysis, funded by CVS Caremark, looked at over 10 million prescriptions filled over a 3-month span in 2008 and found that 3.3 percent were never picked up. The number seems small, but translates to 110 million abandoned prescriptions per year in the United States. It costs a pharmacy an estimated $5 to $10 to prepare, then return to the shelves, an unclaimed medication, so the authors estimate the problem could be costing more than $500 million a year. CVS Caremark has a clear interest in bringing that number down – but so do patients and doctors.

The problem could worsen as technology evolves: Prescriptions sent electronically were 65 percent more likely to be left behind, probably because they bypass the step of having the patients hand- deliver a slip to the pharmacist. As electronic prescribing continues to take hold nationwide, insurers should be vigilant that prescription fill rates may reflect compliance less accurately than with traditional prescriptions.

Not surprisingly, prescriptions with $40 to $50 copays were the most likely to be abandoned. According to William Shrank, the study’s main author, this means that during economically hard times “even insured patients are experiencing sticker shock, and walking away from the pharmacy, without filling essential medications.”

Doctors are unlikely to know their patients’ copays for drugs, but taking the time to talk about drug costs would help them identify those who might never pick up their prescriptions. Down the road, those extra minutes of chat time at the office become multiple dollars saved at the hospital bedside.

Try Local Drugstore For Faster Refund On Recalled Kids’ Medicines

May 13, 2010 By: Nadia Category: HealthCare, Medicine Advice, Medtipster, Prescription News, Prescription Savings

www.Medtipster.com Source: NPR Health Blog – Scott Hensley, 5.6.2010

If you’ve rooted around your medicine chest and found some of the kids’ Tylenol, Motrin, Benadryl or Zyrtec recalled by Johnson & Johnson, what should you do?

The company’s McNeil unit says it will give you a refund, but you have to fill out a form online. Oh, and you also have to be available for a chat, in case a company rep wants to call and verify the info.

The New York Times’ Ron Lieber ripped J&J for not being better prepared and for not telling people sooner that refunds would be an option. The early advice was just to toss the stuff out.

On a listserv for families in our D.C. suburb, one helpful mom said she’d had good luck with the local CVS drugstore, which would even take back the affected medicines without a receipt.

We called CVS HQ in Rhode Island, where spokesman Mike DeAngelis told us the chain would, as is its usual policy, give cash refunds if a customer has a receipt. Without one, you get store credit in the form of a CVS gift card.

What if some of the medicine has been used? Doesn’t matter, he said. Bring in what you’ve got. So far, he said, the returns haven’t been all that heavy. CVS has already cleared its shelves of the affected medicines, and the computerized cash registers won’t let you buy any either.

We emailed rival chain Walgreens, but haven’t heard back yet. The company did post a letter it got from McNeil on what to do with the recalled remedies, though.

Update: OK, we just talked to Robert Elfinger, a spokesman for Walgreens, and you can take your recalled meds back to them for a refund, too.

“Bring the bottle back to the store, whether it’s full, or halfway full,” he just told us. “We’ll take it back and give the customer store credit.” If you’ve got the receipt, Walgreens will give you cash.

Locate a CVS Pharmacy or Walgreens closest to your home on Medtipster.com

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