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Q: What is medication compliance or adherence?

Posted October 09, 2013 in Advice Column, Greene County

A: Compliance is when a person takes his or her medication as directed, meaning the correct number of tablets for the correct number of times a day. Adherence is more of a long-term commitment. Does the patient continue on the medication for the months and years needed to maintain health? Why is this important? According to one study, non-compliance causes a whopping $290 billion increase in health costs in the U.S. That is 15 percent of the country’s total health cost. Another study found that more than 50 percent of patients with chronic conditions fail to adhere to their medications after several months.

Poor compliance can lead to hospital stays which average 4.2 days. In the U.S., 12 percent of people don’t take their medication at all after they buy the prescription. Non-adherence results in unnecessary disease progression, reduced functional abilities and quality of life, an additional $2,000 per year in medical costs and doctor visits and unneeded medication changes.

Why does this happen? There is a relationship with the cost. Higher co-pays do result in higher non-compliance, but not as much as might be expected. The number of doses per day affects compliance. The more frequent the dose, the easier it is to forget to take the drug. Sometimes there are side effects the patient does not like. Others just do not understand the importance of taking medication regularly.

Information provided by Medicap Pharmacy, 400 N. Elm St., Jefferson, 515-386-2164.

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