What are the results of patients not taking medications as prescribed?

Goldina Erowele

Medication nonadherence is most simply defined as the number of doses not taken or taken incorrectly that jeopardizes the patient's therapeutic outcome.

National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE) has noted that nonadherence can take a variety of forms, including

  • not having a prescription filled,
  • taking an incorrect dose,
  • taking a medication at the wrong time,
  • forgetting to take doses, or stopping therapy too soon.

The result of not taking the medications as prescribed has major health & economic impact. The cost of non-adherence is estimated to cost $100 billion annually.

The result of not taking medication for chronic diseases leads to decreased productivity and increase disease morbidity, physician office visits, admissions to nursing homes, and death. Many studies have documented poorer health outcomes due to nonadherence, especially in patients with chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, and epilepsy.

One of the solutions - use of your local clinical pharmacists! They are drug experts; they are trained for this purpose, to educate, to guide and to assist your primary physician. They are trained to address the costly drug related problems such as drug-drug, drug-OTC and drug-herb interactions, therapeutic duplication, they can help your doctors with patient assistance programs available via drug companies, they can suggest generic switches and assist with your insurance 1st tier drug lists which are cost effective options.

Not taking medicines as prescribed increases health care costs and exacts a significant human toll. Poor adherence is associated with increased hospitalizations, nursing home admissions, physician visits, and avoidable healthcare costs.

Relative to patients with high levels of adherence, the risk of poor clinical outcomes—including hospitalization, rehospitalization, and premature death—among nonadherent patients is 5.4 times higher among those with hypertension, 2.8 times higher among those with dyslipidemia, and 1.5 times higher among those with heart disease.

People with diabetes who took their diabetes medicines less than 60 percent of the time were 3.6 times more likely to be hospitalized than those who followed their prescribed treatment.

In 1994, the economic impact of non-adherence was estimated at $100 billion annually, including costs from nursing home admissions and avoidable hospitalizations. A more recent estimate, based on a 2004 synthesis of the literature, puts the cost of non-adherence closer to $300 billion per year. Other research indicates that 33 to 69 percent of medicine-related hospital admissions are caused by poor adherence, with a resulting estimated cost as high as $100 billion a year.

Non-adherence has also been associated with as many as 40 percent of nursing home admissions and with an additional $2,000 a year per patient in medical costs for physician visits.
Poor adherence to medicines has been linked to 125,000 deaths each year.

Continue Learning about Prescription Drug Adherence

6 Prescription Drug Challenges—And How to Overcome Them
6 Prescription Drug Challenges—And How to Overcome Them
When you’ve been diagnosed with a long-term or chronic condition, you’ll often have to take medications long term. But keeping up with your medication...
Read More
What are some medicines produced through synthetic chemistry?
Discovery HealthDiscovery Health
Some of the more famous medicines derived from plants and produced through synthetic chemistry inclu...
More Answers
Which medicines come with the chance of adverse effects?
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MDDr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Every day millions of us snap off the top of a medicine bottle with the hopes that it will prevent, ...
More Answers
Is Antibiotic Resistance a Serious Problem?
Is Antibiotic Resistance a Serious Problem?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.