Overcoming obstacles on the path to prescription medication adherence – National Consumers League

When it comes to managing a chronic health condition, taking your medication as directed seems like a simple no-brainer. With this idea in mind, many of us find the poor national adherence rate shocking—three out of four, or 75 percent, of Americans are non-adherent, resulting in an estimated 125,000 deaths and up to $300 billion dollars in healthcare costs each year.

Yet as patient and heart health advocate Ron Michaud explained at the recent Script Your Future launch event, managing his heart disease, blood pressure, and diabetes requires juggling 13 different medications and 24 pills taken four times a day, everyday.

Michaud made it clear that he wouldn’t be here today without a strong support system to help keep him on track.

“I’ve needed my doctor’s support, my wife’s support, and some tools to manage my medication adherence,” he told a packed auditorium at George Washington University Hospital. “If today’s medications were available when I began my journey with heart disease, and I used my adherence tools, I might have avoided some of the heart attacks and surgeries I have undergone.”

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin was on-hand to explain how the Script Your Future campaign was created to provide just the kind of support patients like Michaud need. ScriptYourFuture.org offers visitors free text-message medication reminders, sample questions to ask health care professionals, lists and charts to keep track of medicines, videos on how to properly use certain medical devices, and fact sheets on chronic conditions like asthma and high cholesterol.  There is also a feature that lets users create a personalized pledge to adhere to medications for themselves or a loved one.

Aside from the dynamic website, the campaign will include regional launches and educational events in target markets like Baltimore, Cincinnati, Birmingham, Providence, Sacramento, and Raleigh.

“I am proud to be a part of the Script Your Future campaign,” said the Surgeon General. “As America’s doctor, I want to keep this significant public issue at the forefront and am committed to working to raise awareness about how clinicians can help their patients.”

Dr. Benjamin stressed that health care professionals, as well as patients, have a critical role in improving the national adherence rate. Dr. Benjamin shared an emotional story about a former patient named Donna who was continuing to experience seizures despite taking all the medicines her doctor prescribed. Only after asking Donna to draw all her medications on paper, did Dr. Benjamin realize that Donna couldn’t read and was relying on her pills’ shapes and colors to identify them—she ran into trouble as soon as she received multiple prescriptions of pills of the same color from her pharmacist.

The critical need to educate health care practitioners about how to talk to their patients is why the campaign also includes a site dedicated to health professionals.  The site includes a variety of interactive tools such as tips on how to begin honest conversations with patients and journal articles on adherence and how it can be improved.

By encouraging health professionals and their patients to work together, the campaign hopes to help those living with chronic conditions live, longer healthier lives—the ultimate goal of patients and doctors alike.