A quarter of patients do not fill new prescriptions

As our regular Word on Health readers will know, I’ve had more than my fair share of trips to the pharmacy recently.  Painkillers, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories…the list goes on.  It’s not that I like taking tablets, I needed them.  Having taken time out of my busy life to see a doctor and get a prescription it would never occur to me to leave it languishing in the bottom of my purse.  However, according to a new study almost 1 in every 4 American’s does just that.

The study, published in the November issue of the American Journal of Medicine, evaluated more than 423,000 e-prescriptions written in 2008 for more than 280,000 patients. It was conducted by researchers at Harvard University, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and CVS Caremark, who matched e-prescriptions with resulting claim data or those who did not claim prescriptions within 6 months.

What they found was that 24% of patients given a new prescription did not fill it. This percentage is higher than that seen in earlier studies.

While some recent research has used e-prescribing data to evaluate primary non-adherence, we were able to study a nationwide sample of patients. Our finding that 24% of patients are not filling initial prescriptions reflects slightly higher primary non-adherence than seen in earlier studies,” said Michael Fischer, MD, MS, with Brigham and Women’s and Harvard Medical School, and lead author of the study.

Most prior research about medication adherence could not review prescriptions that were never filled by patients. However, the advent of electronic prescribing has provided an opportunity to track initial prescriptions that may have been previously undetected and gives healthcare providers a broader look at patients who never fill their prescriptions.

Researchers said the factors that are predictive of primary non-adherence include:

  • the out-of-pocket cost of medications
  • socioeconomic factors
  • the integration of doctors’ health information systems
  • the types of medications.

Prescriptions that are sent directly to mail-order systems and pharmacies are more likely to be filled than e-prescriptions that doctors print out and give to patients, according to the study. The researchers found that medications for hypertension and diabetes resulted in primary non-adherence rates in excess of 25%, while prescriptions for antibiotics and medication for infants were almost always filled.

SRxA works closely with a number of leading health outcomes experts and specializes in providing effective patient adherence programsContact SRxA today to learn more.

COPD – E

Word on Health was interested to note that regular use of vitamin E in women over 45 may help decrease the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to researchers at Cornell University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Long-term, the risk falls by approximately 10% in both smokers and non-smokers.

As lung disease develops, damage occurs to sensitive tissues through several proposed processes, including inflammation and damage from free radicals,” commented Anne Hermetet Agler, of  Cornell University’s Division of Nutritional Sciences. “Vitamin E may protect the lung against such damage.”

Previous research had found that higher intake of vitamin E was associated with a lower risk of COPD, but this is the first time it has been shown that increasing vitamin E intake can prevent COPD.

In this study, nearly 40,000 women aged 45 years and older were randomized to receive either 600 mg of vitamin E or a placebo every other day.  Although fewer women taking vitamin E developed COPD, the supplement appeared to have no effect on asthma.

If results of this study are borne out by further research, clinicians may recommend that women take vitamin E supplements to prevent COPD.

While this may be good news for some, Word on Health reminds its readers that vitamin E supplements are known to have detrimental effects in some people. For example it can cause increased risk of congestive heart failure in cardiovascular disease patients. As such, any future recommendations would need to balance both benefits and risks.

Do you have COPD, or tips for those who are living with the disease?  If so, SRxA’s Word on Health is waiting to hear from you.