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Employer News | April 2015
Employer News | April 2015

Be Sure to Take Your Medication

About four out of every 10 upstate New York adults facing chronic conditions report that they don't always take their medications as prescribed, according to a comprehensive Excellus BlueCross BlueShield commissioned medication adherence survey.

“This comprehensive self-reported adherence survey addresses a topic that's vital to the health of millions of people facing chronic conditions,” said Mona Chitre, Pharm.D., Excellus BlueCross BlueShield vice president of Pharmacy Management and Chief Pharmacy Officer. “When medications are taken as directed, health outcomes are improved, chronic conditions are managed, health care dollars are used efficiently, and lives are saved.”

“Our survey, using an independent firm, also explored the related vital topic of adherence to prescribed antibiotics,” Chitre added. “Here, we found that two out of 10 adults are self-reporting non-adherence, a measure that establishes a level of danger to society because antibiotic resistant bacteria can develop as a direct result of patients who don't complete the full course of treatment as prescribed.”

Key Findings

Adults with chronic conditions:

  • Of those taking medication for a chronic condition within the past three months, 58 percent took their medication as directed, 24 percent missed one dose of medication, 13 percent missed more than one dose, and 11 percent took the medication late.
  • Of those with a chronic condition that were non-adherent, 17 percent reported that symptoms of the conditions returned.
  • Of those with a chronic condition, 23 percent said they rely on a spouse or partner to make sure that they take their medication as prescribed.

Adults prescribed antibiotics:

  • Of those prescribed an antibiotic, 21 percent missed a dose or stopped taking the medication; and of that group, 36 percent missed two doses and 22 percent missed three or more doses.
  • Of those who were non-adherent in taking their antibiotics, 15 percent reported that their symptoms returned.
  • Of those taking an antibiotic, 16 percent reported relying on a spouse or partner for reminders.

Reason for non-adherence:

  • Consistent with national studies, forgetting/not having pill with me was the primary reason for medication non-adherence for those on an antibiotic or a medication for a chronic condition.

The survey (PDF) focused on adults taking medication for five common chronic conditions; asthma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and depression; as well as adults who had been prescribed an antibiotic medication within the past six months. Taking antibiotics as prescribed is crucial to ensure that antibiotic resistant bacteria do not develop.

“Hundreds of thousands of upstate New Yorkers who have the conditions we reviewed are not getting the real benefit of their medicines, and there are many other medical conditions we didn't evaluate, so the numbers are understated,” Chitre said. “To improve their health, patients who have medical conditions should take their medicines as directed by their physicians. Doing so will also help them avoid hospitalizations and other complications.”

Regional Variations

In addition to the general findings, the survey also revealed several regional differences. For example:

Those in the Rochester region are more likely to have missed a dose/stopped taking medications within the past day and past week than those in the Central NY-Southern Tier region;

  • Those in the Central New York-Southern Tier region are more likely to talk to their doctor about lower cost options than those in the Western New York region;
  • Those in the Western New York Region are less likely to cite cost as a reason for non-adherence compared to those in the Utica region;
  • Those in the Utica region are more likely to have been prescribed an antibiotic in the past 6 months than those in the Rochester region.

Medication Adherence Survey Summary Report (PDF) | Additional Fact Sheets, Surveys and Reports



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