Millions in U.S. Take Medications Incorrectly
August 3, 2007 -- Medication errors and patients who skip taking their medications could cost the U.S. $177 billion in medical bills and lost productivity, according to a new report by the nonprofit National Council on Patient Information and Education.
Millions of people don’t take their prescriptions properly, with roughly half of patients with chronic illnesses such as heart disease or asthma skipping their medications. What's even more surprising is that their doctors' track records are no better. Doctors only stick to their own prescription medications 79 percent of the time. Poor medication adherence can cost an extra $2,000 a year per patient in extra doctor visits. The problem is especially acute among the elderly where as many as 40 percent of nursing home admissions result from poor medication adherence.
There are numerous reasons patients stop taking their medication – the cost, confusing directions, forgetfulness, being unable to read the labels because of poor eyesight or low levels of literacy, or just because they feel better. This last reason has become particularly problematic with infectious diseases such as tuberculosis that have the potential of becoming resistant to medicines. If a patient does not take the full course of treatment, the infection can potentially relapse, and drug-resistant forms of disease-causing organisms can emerge.
In the report Preventing Medication Errors, the Institute of Medicine looked at ways to remove some of the confusion for patients with medication labeling by offering suggestions on how to standardize drug nomenclature and abbreviations, effectively use information technologies to reduce errors, improve the labeling and packaging of medications, and empower patients to become partners to improve their own health and safety. Another report by the IOM, Health Literacy: A Prescription to End Confusion, also examined this problem and recommended a concerted effort by the public health and health care systems, the education system, the media, and consumers to improve the nation's health literacy.