(ARA) - Millions of Americans are plagued by chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and arthritis. These are among the most common, costly, and preventable of all existing health problems in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But there's another, lesser-known condition that's taking a huge toll on Americans' health: non-adherence, a problem caused when patients don't follow their doctors' orders.
While it may be hard to believe, the simple act of forgetting to take a pill or not filling a prescription at the pharmacy costs the U.S. as much as $317 billion each year on unnecessary medical expenses. Beyond the financial cost is the health impact: Non-adherence can lead to additional complications, which in turn lead to more medical tests, emergency room visits and hospitalizations - all avoidable by simply taking medications as prescribed.
A new Express Scripts survey found that more than 90 percent of the 40,000 adults polled agree that taking their medication is important for their health, ranking higher than avoiding smoking, eating healthy and getting enough exercise. Despite these findings, Express Scripts' 2011 Drug Trend Report shows that for many diseases requiring drug treatments, less than half of patients take their medication as prescribed. So while Americans recognize the importance of adherence, their intentions and behaviors are not always aligned.
There are many reasons why people don't take their medications regularly; but in contrast to common belief, the main reason for non-adherence has nothing to do with the cost of the medicine or fear of its side effects. In fact, more than two-thirds of patients are non-adherent simply because they forget or procrastinate, according to survey responses.
The good news is that there are some very simple solutions for treating the common condition of non-adherence:
Visual or auditory reminders: Keep your medication in a location where it can be easily found. Tape a note to your refrigerator or set an alarm that will help make taking your pills part of your daily routine.
Automatic refill reminders: Some prescription insurance plans provide automatic refill reminders to ensure you refill your prescriptions on time. Check your pharmacy plan to see if these alerts are available and how you can sign up to receive them.
On-time prescription renewals: Long before you near the end of your final refill, it's important to schedule an appointment with your physician to renew the prescription. If you wait until the last minute, you might not be able to get there in time to stay on your medication therapy.
No matter what method you use to be adherent, it is important to remember that better decisions today lead to healthier results tomorrow.