Share this article

print logo

Do you take medications as directed?

Roughly 90 percent of upstate New York adults think taking medications as prescribed is “very important” or “extremely important,” yet four of 10 missed one or more doses of medications they were prescribed, according to a new survey commissioned by Univera Healthcare.

“It seems obvious that people should take their medications as directed,” said Dr. Richard Vienne, Univera vice president and chief medical officer. “It’s particularly important for those individuals who are living with chronic conditions, because it may be the best way to manage their disease.”

Univera and other insurance companies in the region have taken steps to raise awareness about medication adherence as state and national statistics continue to show a deep disparity among those who believe the medications they take are important, yet don’t always take them.

The American Heart Association estimates that medication nonadherence takes the lives of 125,000 Americans annually and costs the U.S. health care system nearly $300 billion a year in unnecessary expenses. The association also estimates more than half of patients don’t take their medications as directed.

Based on that benchmark, upstate adults tend to do better, according to the recent Univera online survey – but still have a long way to go.

The survey of 2,000 upstate adults comprised a representative demographic sample. More than half of those surveyed were taking at least one prescription medication for a chronic condition.

About a third in the 18-to-44 age group reported always taking their medications as prescribed. That compared to 67 percent of those 65 and older who said they did so.

Those who didn’t said it’s usually because they forget or don’t have the medication with them (43 percent), they don’t like the side effects (20 percent), or there an issue with the cost (14 percent). Eight percent said they believed they could get by without it.

Vienne cautioned that many diseases have silent symptoms that can cause damage.

Vicky Belousova, assistant professor in D’Youville College School of Pharmacy’s Department of Pharmaceutical, Social and Administrative Sciences, cited patients with high blood pressure and high cholesterol that can be controlled with medication, but if left untreated can lead to serious health problems, including heart attack and stroke.

One of the best ways to ensure that people continue to take their medications, according to Belousova, is to help patients establish a routine, using either pill boxes or reminders on their cellphones or watches.

With concerns in mind, the Pharmacists’ Association of Western New York (PAWNY) last year partnered with Independent Health to help educate patients – particularly seniors and those living with chronic medical conditions – on the need to adhere to their medication regimen with respect to timing, dosage and frequency.

Twenty five independent pharmacies across Western New York took part in the program. Using data provided by Independent Health, participating pharmacists contacted patients who appeared to be nonadherent to learn why they weren’t taking their medications properly. During the three-month trial period, participating pharmacies conducted more than 700 patient interventions:

– 385 of the interventions were specifically related to medication nonadherence, with 235 (61.2 percent) resulting in improved adherence.

– 326 interventions focused on moving patients to either tablet splitting or a lower cost generic medication. As a result, 165 patients (50.6 percent) were able to reduce their prescription drug costs, which in turn can lead to better adherence.

Patients were also made aware of the medications that might cause them to become more sensitive to side effects and toxicities and were encouraged to consult with their doctor if they needed further assistance.

Find out more about the effort at

View complete Univera survey results at


Twitter: @BNrefresh

There are no comments - be the first to comment