Drug adherence rates problematic among young adults

If filled prescriptions are collecting dust in the pick-up bin of your pharmacy, they may not be going anywhere anytime soon. Americans are failing to adhere to their medications because doing so makes them feel “sad,” “old,” or “worried,” according to a recent survey.

“Taking medication is a daily reminder of your illness and your status as a ‘patient’ so it’s a negative experience that people instinctively want to avoid,” said Dr. Katrina Firlik , cofounder and chief medical officer of HealthPrize, a digital health company that sponsored the HealthPrize Medication Non-Adherence survey.

More than 1,000 adults who take prescription medications responded to the survey from March 8 to March 15, 2013. The findings showed that women (32%) are more likely than men (20%) to quit taking their prescription or never fill them, and 56% of 18- to 34-year-olds quit taking prescription medications or never fill them compared with just 16% of senior citizens.

Nearly half of people surveyed said they would rather take out the garbage than take their medicine, according to the survey results. In addition, 10% of people surveyed would rather get a cavity filled while 27% would rather get a shot than take their medication.

“Psychologically, people tend to prefer actions that offer short-term benefits but most chronic medications provide no short-term benefits—only short-term annoyances. So people may skip taking or stop refilling their medication altogether even if the long-term risks to their health are enormous. That’s the reality of medication non-adherence that needs to be addressed,” Firlik said.

About 125,000 American deaths per year are related to medication non-adherence, and $290 billion in “otherwise avoidable medical spending” occurs in the U.S. each year because of failed medication adherence, according to a HealthPrize press release.

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