Not taking medicine as directed causes more than one-third of medicine-related hospitalizations in the US each year, as well as almost 125,000 deaths. The following three cautionary tales illustrate the consequences of nonadherence.
When Betsy was 36 years old, she was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Busy with two small children and a part-time job, she often didn’t pay attention to what she ate or when she ate it, nor did she take her medicine as her doctor instructed her. One day as she was driving her daughter to a play date, she started to get the shakes. Fortunately, she recognized that her blood sugar was low and took steps to bring it back in line.
Rob, a man in his fifties who teaches ceramics and sells his own work, had high blood pressure. His doctor prescribed medication for his condition, but Rob, distracted by both his students and slow sales, usually neglected to take it, claiming that it gave him insomnia. “When I don’t get a decent night’s sleep, I can barely function the next day, much less deal with students,” he said. Then Rob had a stroke that left him partially paralyzed and unable to work. Now he needs help performing basic daily tasks like bathing and dressing and is dependent on an aide.
Julia, a senior citizen living on a fixed income, knew that she was supposed to take her asthma medicine regularly. Faced with paying for her prescription or food, however, she opted for meals. Twice this year she has had asthma attacks so severe that they have landed her in the hospital.
Betsy, Rob, and Julia are not alone. Lack of medication compliance has become a $290 billion annual problem. It’s a problem that the national medication adherence campaign, Script Your Future, was organized to address. Launched in May 2011, the Script Your Future campaign addresses the need for resources to support improved medication adherence and to further dialogue between healthcare professionals and patients about the health consequences of nonadherence.
Among the Script Your Future tools, available at www.ScriptYourFuture.org, are free text message reminders, sample questions to ask healthcare practitioners, medication lists, condition management sheets, a wallet reminder card, and fact sheets on common chronic conditions. Those with asthma can download an action plan and watch a video on how to use an inhaler. Other instructional videos are also available.
“Take the Pledge. Take Your Meds,” the campaign slogan reads, and it is a good one. Medication is not a magic bullet when dealing with a chronic health condition, but it can go a long way toward helping people live long, productive lives.