'Not a pill person': What prescription nonadherence is costing US healthcare

Societal pressure to "do things naturally" is influencing already low rates of prescription adherence in the U.S. — an epidemic resulting in thousands of preventable hospitalizations and deaths each year.

Here are seven things to know about the state of prescription adherence across the country, as The New York Times reports.

1. Research shows between 20 percent and 30 percent of prescriptions are never filled and approximately 50 percent of medications for chronic diseases are not taken as prescribed, according a review in Annals of Internal Medicine.

2. Of those who do take prescription medication, they typically take only half the prescribed dose, the study found.

3. Specifically, about 33 percent of kidney transplant patients do not take their anti-rejection medications, about 41 percent of heart attack patients do not take their blood pressure medications and about 50 percent of children with asthma either do not use their inhalers at all or use them inconsistently.

4. Each year, this lack of adherence is estimated to cause about 125,000 deaths, at least 10 percent of U.S. hospitalizations and cost between $100 billion and $289 billion.

5. Bruce Bender, co-director of the Center for Health Promotion at National Jewish Health in Denver, told The New York Times, "When people don't take the medications prescribed for them, emergency department visits and hospitalizations increase and more people die. Nonadherence is a huge problem, and there's no one solution because there are many different reasons why it happens."

6. One factor fueling nonadherence is patient resistance to prescriptions they view as "chemicals" or "unnatural" treatment options, according to the article.

7. A 2015 study in The New England Journal of Medicine found common reasons for nonadherence included: "I'm not a pill person"; "I'm old fashioned"; and, "Medications remind people they're sick." 

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