Patient Adherence Improves When More Refills Authorized-October 2008

Study finds patients' adherence to cholesterol-reducing medications is influenced by the number of authorized refills per prescription.

When physicians authorize more refills for prescription medications, patients are more likely to adhere to their drug regimens, a new study from Surveillance Data Inc has found.

For the study, analysts looked at 4522 high prescribers, who write 270 or more prescriptions per year in the lipid-lowering market, to determine the average number of authorized refills per prescription during a 12-month period. Then, by examining anonymous patient-level data for each prescriber, analysts were able to understand the filling behavior of patients who received different numbers of authorized refills.

The study showed that prescribers who consistently wrote prescriptions with 4 or more authorized refills per prescription had patient populations who filled more scripts, on average, than those who authorized fewer refills or whose patients required a new prescription in order to obtain their medication.

This pattern suggests that prescribers may be able to influence patient adherence with something as simple as authorizing more refills when they write prescriptions, study analysts note, adding that the information has wide-ranging implications for patient adherence initiatives.

Improving medication adherence has been found to save money and improve health. In its August 2007 report, “Enhancing Prescription Adherence: A National Action Plan,” the National Council on Patient Information and Education noted that, “poor medication adherence has been estimated to cost approximately $177 billion annually in total direct and indirect health care costs.” The council described lack of medication adherence as America’s “other drug problem,” leading to unnecessary disease progression and disease complications.

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