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Coalition shines light on medication adherence

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The day before the Senate leadership unveiled an $848 billion bill that will be the focal point of the next phase of the health care reform debate, all of the members of Congress received a timely reminder about the importance of including measures to improve medication compliance in whatever legislation is ultimately enacted.

Twenty-seven organizations sent a letter to representatives and senators that summarizes the case for making a bigger investment in getting people to take prescription drugs as directed, thus enhancing the lives of patients and limiting overall health care costs.

After citing a study that indicates that up to half of individuals do not use medications as prescribed, the letter talks about the consequences.

“Nonadherence results in poor health outcomes that could have been avoided,” it reads. “Research suggests that costs resulting from nonadherence may be as high as $100 billion to $300 billion annually.

“Research also shows that many patients face multiple barriers to taking their medications as directed. As such, addressing the problem will require multifaceted strategies and involve a diverse group of stakeholders. Doing so is a win-win … better health outcomes and cost savings.”

The letter goes on to make five recommendations to help ensure that, in a reformed health care system, Americans receive the prescription drugs they require and utilize them as intended. They call for recognition of the need for better medication compliance, tighter coordination of care, harnessing the power of health information technology, support for providers to engage and educate patients, and additional research about drug adherence and how it can be bolstered.

The main points in the cogently stated argument will come as no surprise to people involved in retail pharmacy, but they should open some eyes among members of Congress who may have overlooked the positive impact that the profession can have on health care. The odds of the letter accomplishing that goal are increased by the most remarkable thing about it — the variety of organizations that signed on.

In addition to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and other pharmacy groups, the letter has the backing of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, GlaxoSmithKline, sanofi-aventis, organizations representing other health care providers, and consumer groups.

The diversity of the coalition, whose members haven’t always seen eye to eye, should go a long way toward augmenting its effectiveness.


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