Poor medication adherence costs $290 billion a year

By: Brian Dolan | Aug 15, 2009        

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Proteus Biomedical's "smart pill"A new report conducted by the New England Healthcare Institute (NEHI) found that not taking medications as prescribed leads to poorer health, more frequent hospitalization, a higher risk of death and as much as $290 billion annually in increased medical costs. Anywhere from one-third to one-half of patients in the U.S. do not take their medications as instructed. Not taking the medication on time, in the proper doses, or at all are just some examples of poor patient medication adherence. Reasons for following the proper medication regimen include: unpleasant side effects, confusion, forgetfulness, language barriers, and feeling “too good” to need medicine. Those with chronic conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure are among the groups that are less likely to follow their medication regimen. NEHI is urging the federal government to the issue a part of the national healthcare reform debate.

NEHI’s report is an update on a 2001 report. The new one is based on seven systematic reviews of the medical literature plusinterviews with 16 health care organizations, insurers, drug makers and technology companies — the report was financed by this group, NEHI said, but it was written independently of them.

“If physicians and other care providers are reimbursed for better health outcomes, we believe that will go a long way toward driving adherence because providers will have incentives to invest in the time and resources and counseling and technology and other tools that are really needed to educate patients and in some cases to change their behavior and to really move the needle on adherence,” NEHI executive director Valerie Fleishman told the Boston Globe in a recent interview.

Of course, there are many wireless health tools and services that can help people follow their medication regimens. Just this week Vitality made its GlowCaps product commercially available for $99 on Amazon.com. Verizon Wireless also reminded its nearly 90 million subscribers that Vocel’s The Pill Phone application was available for download for anyone who has a Get It Now-enabled Verizon Wireless handset and a couple of extra bucks to spare a month. There are also a number of iPhone apps for medication adherence guidance, including The Pill Phone, myPillBox and more. Healthcare providers are tinkering with the idea of sending medication reminders via secure text messaging, too.

In the not too distant future, sensor technology combined with intelligent medicine technology from Proteus Biomedical could serve as the ultimate solution to medication adherence issues. Proteus’ Raisin technology can track whether and when a patient takes their medication. Proteus’ technology can be embedded in the actual pill, just about any pill, the company claims. Proteus envisions a patient’s doctor, nurse or even a relative will be able to confirm that the patient took the medicine. They will also be able to track the patient’s respiration, heart rate and body temperature from their mobile phones. Proteus CEO Andrew Thompson told an ABC affiliate in California recently that he expects the company’s technology to be commercially available in the UK in two years and in the U.S. in three years.

Read more about the NEHI study over at the Boston Globe

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  • http://www.prestoceo.com Peter Radsliff

    Medication compliance is a tremendously important topic. Here is an interesting approach to using two different technologies — paper-based and telephone-based — to solve the age-old behavioral problem of “taking your meds.” http://bit.ly/2ym1XS

  • http://www.rememberitnow.com Pamela Swingley

    Medication non-compliance seems simple to solve, “take your pills on time, as you are told”. But it’s not so easy for the patient. http://www.RememberItNow.com is a new personal health service that sends medication reminders to the patient’s cell phone helping them take the right medication, at the right time and in the right dose. The service also includes an interactive private care community, and a suite of health tools.

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  • chris gowin

    The best way by far to improve medication adherence is with a 2.99 pill box that you can purchase at any retailer in the US. There are exceptions, but it will work for most everyone. All these electronic gadgets are simply ways for other companies to take your money. All they do is tell you to take your pill- they dont take it for you. So if you are in your car and your cell tells you to take your medication did it remind you to bring your pills with? No. What happens when you are late with your bill, or cancel the service? The simple act of taking your pills from the vial and putting them into your pill reminder reinforces better medication habits then any electronic reminder would ever do. Smart pills- really? Giving more opportunities to entrench pharmaceuticals into our national economy? Sell more drugs too, great, good for them. A 2.99 pill box, it’s that simple for most of us. I have seen electronic reminders come and go for the past 5 years while the pill box remains the standard for a good reason.

  • Craig Schreiber

    Hi Chris:

    Telling people to use a pill box is the equivalent of telling people to drive safely but not including seatbelts, airbags, turn signlas or crumple zones in their car.

    If Pill Boxes helped solve the problem of incorrect medication use the cost of medication related problems would not have increased from $177 Billion in 2001 to $290 Billion dollars in 2008.

    Plus, Pill Boxes do not solve the problem of sub-therapeutic adherence, incorrect timing of dosage intervals, taking medicine too soon, taking the wrong medication or dosage.

    Pill Boxes may create more problems than they solve while exposeing people and their medication to additional risks. This problem adversely affects people, patients, caregivers and our entire Healthcares system.

    Just a thought but you should know that 93% of people think that they are good medicine takers.

    It is my understanding that a Pharmacist cannot transfer or recommend the transfer of prescription medication from a USP approved pharmacy vial into a non USP approved container.

    If you want to discuss solving the problem, let me know.

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  • anna Kowaslka

     I’d always had a problem with taking my meds on time until I found MedDose a free mobile android application. Really good app, helps me keep on track with my meds. I haven’t missed a dose since I started using this app

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  • Jim

    Medication adherence or the lack of it often comes down to simply forgetting to take the meds at the time they were prescribed. I’m one of the founders of Med Helper which is a Medication adherence app originally conceived to help my wife, who was prescribed a plethora of medications ,some causing short term memory loss. Simple tools such as reminders and a reference to what to take – when has made her medication regime simple to follow. We released Med Helper – 2 + years ago and it is now being used by thousands of people worldwide. It has evolved into one of the most serious adherence apps on the market today due to user engagement and feedback. Our motto is Better Healthcare Needs Better Tools – sometimes simple things like an app on your smartphone or tablet can make all the difference.