25% Of New Prescriptions Go Unfilled

Nearly one in four patients who receive a new prescription fail to get it filled, according to a study from researchers at Harvard, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and CVS Caremark. Most prior research of patients who do not take medications as prescribed - commonly known as medication non-adherence - looked at patient behavior after filling a first prescription. The advent of electronic prescribing provides the opportunity to track initial prescriptions that may have been previously undetected and gives health care providers a broader look at patients who never fill their new prescriptions. The study evaluated more than 423,000 e-prescriptions written in 2008 by 3,634 doctors for more than 280,000 patients from all 50 states. The study team matched the e-prescriptions with resulting claims data, or in the case of those not filling the prescription, used the lack of a claim within six months to identify primary non-adherence. The study reviewed factors that might cause patients to ignore that first fill. Among the factors highlighted by the researchers as predictive of primary non-adherence are: •The out-of-pocket cost of medications. Patients who received prescriptions for medications that were not included on their health care formulary - and were therefore more expensive because co-pays would be higher - are more likely not to fill their first prescription. •The integration of the doctors' health information systems. Prescriptions sent directly to pharmacies or mail-order systems are more likely to be filled than e-prescriptions that doctors print out and give to patients. •Socio-economic factors. The researchers determined by reviewing zip codes and census data that patients who live in higher income areas are more likely to fill prescriptions for new medications. •The type of medications. Prescriptions written for infants are almost always filled and antibiotics are filled at a rate of 90 percent. Medications for hypertension or diabetes saw primary non-adherence rates in excess of 25 percent. Annual excess health care costs due to medication non-adherence in the United States are estimated to be as much as $300 billion annually.
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