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America has been largely recognized as a nation where heavy emphasis is put on the rights of the individual. Americans pride themselves in having personal freedom and keeping their own council. Yet this freedom might be getting them in trouble as far as their health is concerned. New research suggests that Americans are particularly poor at consistently taking prescribed medication, and also poor at using medication as directed by their doctor.

A Troubling New Survey

The National Community Pharmacists Association has put together a report card which details patient’s adherence to prescription guidelines – this report surveys individuals to determine whether or not they take medications in the manner which has been directed by their doctor. Technically, anything less than a grade of “A” is considered unacceptable. But sadly, patients in the US didn’t even come close to receiving this rating. Instead, Americans have received a “C+” for their ability to take medications as directed.

It bears recognizing that this rating was generated solely by looking at individuals who had chronic conditions for which they took medication. Still, this is a large group of individuals and also a set likely to experience side effects and repercussions as a result of failing to take their meds. This C+ rating is nothing to scoff at, nor are the scientific methods used to determine it.

Why the C+?

This is the first time that the National Community Pharmacists Association, or NCPA, has put together such a large survey focused on Americans’ medicine taking habits. The survey questioned adults who were over the age of 40 and took medication daily for chronic conditions. This cohort represents 30 percent of all adults, and thus quite a large portion of the population. The median age of the entire group surveyed was 60 years old, and the median number of medicines being taken on a daily basis was four.

In the survey, people were questioned extensively on their medicine taking habits. The questions included:

  • In the last year have you forgotten to fill or refill your prescription?
  • In the past year have you missed a dose, or taken a lower or higher dose than you have been prescribed for?
  • In the past year have you stopped taking a medication early, or started taking an old medication for a new condition for which it was not originally prescribed?
  • In the past year have you taken someone else’s medication or forgotten whether you’ve taken your medication?

Why All the Bad Drug Taking Behavior?

Among the respondents to the survey, forgetfulness was the most common reason that people gave for their failure to follow doctor’s orders with their medicine. In fact, forgetfulness accounted for four of every ten respondents’ excuses for failing to follow directions with their medicine. Other common reasons for not taking medicine as directed included running out of the prescribed medicine, experiencing side effects as a result of taking the medicine, and having trouble affording the medicine.

The Monetary Cost of Poor Habits

In addition to representing naughty behavior, failure by Americans to take their medicine has a very real financial cost. It’s estimated that an additional $290 billion in healthcare costs are incurred each year as a result of people failing to take their medications as directed. Thus, the problem of poor drug taking habits is considered by some medical professionals to be possibly the most deadly and yet most preventable healthcare problem currently plaguing the US.


About the Author: Justin writes about recent developments in the healthcare and personal fitness industries. When he’s not writing, Justin works full-time in medical billing services, and practice management for emergency care centers.
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