NCPA grades America's medication adherence: C+

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — It appears that medication adherence among Americans age 40 years and older ranges from mediocre to worse, according to a new report by a trade group representing independent pharmacies.

The National Community Pharmacists Association released a patient survey Tuesday dubbed "Medication Adherence in America: A National Report Card," finding that patients age 40 years and older with a chronic medical condition earned a C+ on average, while 1-in-7 respondents earned an F. Overall, one-third of participants received a D or F. According to a widely cited study by the New England Healthcare Institute, medication nonadherence costs the healthcare system about $290 billion per year. The NCPA commissioned Langer Research Associates to conduct the 1,020-patient study.

"The academic year has drawn to a close for most students, but when it comes to taking their prescription drugs, it's many of the parents who may require summer school," NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey said. "Proper prescription drug use can improve patient health outcomes and lower healthcare costs, so anything less than an A on medication adherence is concerning. Pharmacists can help patients and caregivers overcome barriers to effectively and consistently follow medication regimens."

The "report card" grades study participants based on nine nonadherent behaviors: failure to fill a prescription in the past 12 months; failing to have a prescription refilled; missing doses; taking lower doses than prescribed; taking higher doses than prescribed; stopping prescriptions early; taking old medications for new problems without consulting doctors; taking someone else's medicine; and forgetting whether they'd taken a medication.

The NCPA said the study's findings may understate nonadherence because the answers are self-reported and potential reluctance among some people to admit undesirable behaviors.

The biggest predictor of patients' adherence overall was their connection to pharmacists or pharmacy staff. Overall, 89% of patients using independent pharmacies reported a high level of connection with their pharmacists, compared with 67% of those using large chains and 36% of those using mail-order. Other predictors of adherence included affordability of medications, continuity in healthcare usage, perceived importance of taking medications as prescribed, how well-informed patients feel about their health and medication side effects.

"Caregivers are a vital resource for improving the national grade on proper prescription use," National Alliance for Caregiving director of programs, operations and development Paul DelPonte said. "Enhanced community partnerships and increased awareness on proper use of medications will make our nation healthier."