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Are You Adhering to Your Prescription Drug Regimen?

March 28, 2013 By: Nadia Category: HealthCare, Medicine Advice, Medtipster, Prescription News, Prescription Savings

Adhering to medication means taking the medication correctly, as instructed by a health care professional. This includes filling and refilling the prescription, taking it regularly, and continuing to take it for as long as prescribed. While this may seem simple, the World Health Organization has reported an average medication adherence rate of only 50 percent for people with chronic illnesses in developed countries. So, why is only half of the population taking their medicines as prescribed? Moreover, why is it important to adhere to your medication regimen anyway? Read on to find out why it’s important and how you can improve your adherence.

Why Adherence Matters?

Simply put, it can improve your overall quality of life. Evidence suggests that for many chronic illnesses, higher medication adherence reduces hospital visits. Fewer visits to the hospital mean lower medical costs as well.

Adherence to medication may be ‘easier said than done’ for many people. There are a variety of barriers that may make it difficult for patients to follow their medication therapy. Here are a few of those barriers and suggestions for how to get around them.


Often times, patients just cannot afford their medications. Perhaps there are alternative drugs available that do not cost as much. Talk with your prescriber or pharmacist. They may be able to help you find a more affordable drug.

You can also visit the Medtipster website,, to determine the cost of a prescription. The tool can help you compare the price on related drug products.

Side Effects

Your medicine may trigger unpleasant side effects, causing you to stop taking it. Talk to your doctor about these side effects. They may be able to switch you to a different medicine to reduce the side effects. They may also have suggestions for minimizing the side effects. Your doctor has your best interest in mind and is a knowledgeable resource to help improve your quality of life.

Feeling Better

There are five pills left, but you started to feel better and decided to stop taking your medicine. Before you stop, talk to your prescriber. Stopping early may cause more health problems. For instance, if a patient has a bacterial infection and stops taking his or her medicine early, some bacteria may still be alive. These bacteria could start a whole new strain of resistant germs. (U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2009). Even though you may feel better, try to continue to take your medicine(s).


Make taking your medicine a part of your daily routine. Once you are used to taking your medicines regularly, it will not seem like a burden on your lifestyle. Buying a pill minder dispenser may help; it’s an easy daily reminder to take your medicine. Write down a schedule of when to take your medicines or add it to the calendar on your electronic device.

Health Care Beliefs and Attitudes

Some patients hold certain beliefs or attitudes that stop them from being adherent to their medication regimen. For example, a patient may believe that taking a medication as prescribed will not lead to a predicted outcome or that a particular disease state is not significant or will not lead to severe untoward outcomes. Talk with your prescriber about your beliefs. He or she may have more information about your illness and medicine than you know.  Your prescriber can tell you why it is in your best interest to adhere to taking your medicine(s).

Adhering to your medicine can improve your overall quality of life, so take care to adhere to your prescribed medication regimen. For a better result, you will be glad you attended to your health.

Antibiotic Misuse Threatens To Lose War Against Superbugs

April 08, 2011 By: Nadia Category: Medtipster Source: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, 4.7.2011

Antimicrobial Resistance Posing Growing Health Threat

Millions of Americans take antimicrobial drugs each year to fight illness, trusting they will work. However, the bacteria, viruses and other pathogens are fighting back. Within the past couple of years alone, new drug-resistant patterns have emerged and resistance has increased – a trend that demands urgent action to preserve the last lines of defense against many of these germs. Today, CDC joins the World Health Organization and other health partners in recognizing World Health Day, which this year spotlights antimicrobial resistance.

“People assume that antibiotics will always be there to fight the worst infections, but antimicrobial resistance is robbing us of that certainty and new drug-resistant pathogens are emerging,” said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “It’s not enough to hope that we’ll have effective drugs to combat these infections. We must all act now to safeguard this important resource.”

Antimicrobial resistance—when germs change in a way that reduces or eliminates the effectiveness of drugs to treat them—is a growing global problem. Plasmodium falciparum, the most dangerous of the malaria parasites, has developed resistance to nearly all of the currently available antimalarial drugs in parts of Southeast Asia. Sporadic cases of pandemic H1N1 flu have shown resistance to oseltamivir, one of only two antivirals that work against it. In the United States, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, known as MRSA, remains a problem in many health care settings. Drug-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae, previously seen in a limited number of hospitals, has now been reported in at least 36 states. Gonorrhea is now showing potential for resistance to cephalosporins, the only recommended antibiotic left to treat this common sexually transmitted infection.

Antibiotic resistance increases the economic burden on the entire health care system. Resistant infections are often more severe, leading to longer hospital stays and increased costs for treatment. According to the latest available data, antibiotic resistance in the United States costs an estimated $20 billion a year in excess health care costs, $35 million in other societal costs and more than 8 million additional days that people spend in the hospital.

As part of this effort, CDC—in collaboration with the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health and other partners—recently released a public health action plan laying out 11 key goals to combat antimicrobial resistance in the areas of surveillance, prevention and control, research and product development. The plan is designed to facilitate communication and coordination as well to provide guidance on the most pressing resistance issues and how to address them.

“This plan is the result of years of work between CDC, FDA, NIH and other health partners and provides a framework for the way forward,” said Jean Patel, Ph.D., deputy director of CDC’s Office of Antimicrobial Resistance. “Patients, health care professionals, hospitals and policy makers must all work together to employ effective strategies to improve the appropriate use of the drugs that fight these infections – ultimately saving lives.”

Appropriate use of existing antibiotics can limit the spread of antibiotic resistance, preserving antibiotics for the future. CDC advocates for the appropriate use of antibiotics through its Get Smart programs focused on community and health care settings. CDC is engaged in working to address antimicrobial resistance across a growing number of disease-causing organisms and settings.

The public can also play a role in reducing the threat of antimicrobial resistance by not pressuring their health care providers for antibiotics, not sharing or saving antibiotics, and taking antibiotics exactly as prescribed, including taking the entire amount prescribed. Health care providers can prevent antimicrobial resistance by ensuring prompt diagnosis and treatment of infections, prescribing antibiotics appropriately, and following infection prevention techniques to prevent the spread of drug-resistant infections in health care facilities.

How Can You Help the Medicine Go Down?

March 30, 2011 By: Nadia Category: HealthCare, Medicine Advice, Medtipster, Prescription News, Prescription Savings Source: The Wall Street Journal, 3.28.2011 -by Katherine Hobson

Too many people don’t take the drugs they’re supposed to. Tackling that problem could save a lot of money and a lot of lives.

Medication can do great things for people—but only if they take it. And a lot of people aren’t taking it.

Half of patients in the developed world don’t properly take their drugs for chronic conditions, according to the World Health Organization. The additional costs for treating diseases that progress unchecked run into the hundreds of billions of dollars a year. One study estimates nearly 90,000 people die prematurely in the U.S. each year because of poor adherence to high-blood-pressure treatment alone.

So how do you get people to take their medicine? There isn’t one answer, because there isn’t one reason people aren’t sticking to their regimens. Cost, forgetfulness, side effects and doubts about effectiveness can all be factors, among others. And for many people the health-care system isn’t designed to monitor or encourage adherence to drug prescriptions.

But there are plenty of health-care professionals and researchers tackling this issue, and they have some ideas about what can be done and what should be done. Here are some of those ideas.

More Refill Information

Doctors and other health-care providers need “some way of tracking to know if patients are refilling their medications, so we can step in and help people” if they aren’t, says Robert Reid, a physician and researcher at Group Health Cooperative, a Seattle-based nonprofit health-care system that coordinates care and coverage.

Providers like Group Health and Kaiser Permanente, a large managed-care consortium based in Oakland, Calif., can track refills because they manage all aspects of their patients’ care, so all information for each of their patients is collected in one easy-to-access electronic record. Alec Does, a family-medicine physician at Kaiser Permanente Anaheim Hills, says that when he shows patients records indicating they haven’t been consistently filling their prescriptions, “90% of the time, they’ll open up” and start talking about any issues they’re having.

But most people don’t get their care from such comprehensive providers, so their doctors rarely have access to their pharmacy records.

The technology to fix that problem exists, says Valerie Fleishman, executive director of NEHI, a national health-policy research institute based in Cambridge, Mass. “Physicians are sending prescriptions to the pharmacy, so we have the capability to close that feedback loop,” she says. The problem, she says, is that most doctors are paid for specific services, like office visits and medical procedures—not for managing their patients’ health outcomes. So there is no financial incentive for them to take on the cost of tracking prescription refills.

There is no quick fix for this problem, Ms. Fleishman says, but the recently passed health-care overhaul bill includes funding for new models for care and payment that might do a better job of rewarding providers for doing whatever it takes to keep patients healthy.

Get Pharmacists Involved

“Retail pharmacists appear to be able to play a really substantial role in encouraging patients to use their medications better,” says William Shrank, an assistant professor of medicine in the division of pharmacoepidemiology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “They are an underutilized resource.”

At Stamford, Conn.-based customer-communications company Pitney Bowes Inc., on-site pharmacist Antonio Tierno says he talks with patients about their conditions and medications. If a patient is picking up a refill behind schedule, he’ll ask what’s up. “If a person is late, you need to find out why,” he says.

Mr. Tierno says he always asks patients if they know why they’re taking a drug. That conversation can help ensure that patients will take their medication, he says, by making the drug’s benefits clearer to them and by making them feel more involved in their care.

A study by researchers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that a pharmacy-care program for 200 people age 65 and older who were taking at least four medications for chronic conditions boosted adherence to 97% from 61% after six months. Patients were educated about their medications, including usage instructions; medications were dispensed in blister packs that made it easier to keep track of whether they had taken their pills for the day; and pharmacists followed up with patients every two months.

After 12 months, those who continued to get the pharmacy care kept their adherence at about 96%, while adherence among those for whom the program was discontinued dropped to 69%.

Another review of efforts to improve adherence—sponsored by CVS Caremark Corp. and carried out by Dr. Shrank and other researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard University and CVS—found that nurses talking with patients as they were discharged from the hospital were right behind pharmacists in terms of how often they successfully encouraged patients to take their medications as directed.

Treat Patients as Individuals

Every patient’s story is different—so every solution has to be tailored to the individual.

The first step is to engage the patient with a simple, open-ended question, says Elizabeth Oyekan, area pharmacy director at Kaiser Permanente South Bay Medical Center: What’s getting in the way of picking up your medications?

“That will give you some concrete information, and then you target the solution to the individual patient,” she says. Kaiser has created a set of online tutorials to help doctors and others engage more effectively with patients who are skipping their medications.

If a patient is worried about side effects, a health-care provider might offer a substitute for the medication, or a lower dose. For the forgetful, it could be as easy as using a simple pillbox, or maybe something more technologically advanced, such as text-message reminders or souped-up pillboxes with audio or visual alerts.

If money is the problem, the solution may be generic substitutes, a mail-order program (which not only provides drugs at a lower cost but also helps those who have trouble getting to a pharmacy), or a drug company’s assistance program.

In many cases, though, problems can be addressed only by looking at medication adherence as a behavioral issue with often complex roots, says Alan Christensen, chairman of the psychology department at the University of Iowa. As with diet and exercise, getting people to change their behavior can be difficult.

“There’s more and more interest in how to better motivate and engage patients beyond just simply reminding them or reducing financial barriers or simplifying therapy,” says Dr. Shrank. Multifaceted programs that entail various combinations of those elements and education delivered by health-care professionals have shown promise in studies, but “we don’t have a good sense of what precisely is the right mix,” Dr. Shrank says. And, he says, if that ideal mix turns out to involve a lot of expensive face time, someone will have to figure out how to implement those efforts in a cost-effective way.

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