Economic Crisis: Family Health Care Costs Will Skyrocket As Patients Cut Back On Prescription Drugs

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During these tough economic times, many patients are trying to figure out how to stretch their incomes so that they can afford to buy food, gas, pay the rent, AND purchase prescription drugs. Many are deciding to take half the prescribed dose each day or not refilling their prescriptions at all. Not taking the full dose of a medicine can lead to serious medical complications that are far more costly to treat than the price of the prescription.

Dr. Dorothy L. Smith, clinical pharmacist and President and CEO of metropolitan Washington, DC-based Consumer Health Information Corporation (CHIC), addressed the Annual Meeting of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP) in Louisville, Kentucky, and spoke to an audience comprised of pharmaceutical industry executives, clinicians and researchers on the "Impact of Patient Decision-Making on Patient Outcomes".

Dr. Smith, a founding member of ACCP, pointed out that patients are making day-to-day decisions on how to manage their prescription drugs. Many do not understand the information they receive from health professionals on how to take a medication and why it has been prescribed. Patients always try to make wise decisions because they are very concerned about risk and know they will have to live with any health and financial consequences.

When patients decide to stop taking a prescription drug, they usually do not discuss their concerns with a health professional. Some of their reasons for stopping a medication include:

"I am not going to follow the treatment recommendations."
"I think it is safer to try juicing, natural remedies, yoga first."
"I am going to adjust the dose because this will lower my chance of developing side effects."
"If I take half the dose, I will save money because the prescription will last longer."
"I am not going to get my next refill because I don't think the drug is working."
"I am going to wait until I start to feel "sick" again."

The Washington Post (October 16, 2008) reported the results of a Rockefeller Foundation/Time Magazine survey (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/10/15/AR2008101503762.html). Consumers were asked the question: "In the past year, was there ever a time when you have not filled a medical prescription because of cost?" 23% responded "Yes".

With the current economic crisis, more patients are deciding not to fill their prescriptions. Taking the incorrect dose of some drugs or stopping some medications suddenly could lead to dangerous health problems requiring emergency room visits, additional doctor visits, additional prescription medicines, lost time from work and long-term health problems.

It is far cheaper to take a prescription drug correctly than risk dangerous complications and expensive health care costs that would never have been necessary if the drug had been taken correctly in the first place.

For instance, one patient with high blood pressure decided to stop taking his medication. Stopping the medication caused his blood pressure to increase and this led to major eye complications. He had to be hospitalized for eight days and it cost more than $10,000 for emergency treatment. It would have been safer and cheaper to have taken the high blood pressure medicine.

Dr. Smith urged pharmaceutical companies and health professionals to prepare materials that will help patients better understand how to manage their medications wisely and safely. "Patients will only stay in long-term therapy if they know how to monitor their progress and believe the drug is working. We need to put ourselves in the "patient's shoes", and provide them with information that they can understand and trust."

About Consumer Health Information Corporation:
Consumer Health Information Corporation (http://www.consumer-health.com) is internationally recognized for innovative patient education programs that help patients understand how to manage their medications and medical treatments wisely and safely (http://www.consumer-health.com/services/consumers.htm). The company was founded in 1983 by Dr. Dorothy L. Smith. She saw first-hand in her clinical pharmacy practice settings that many patients were needlessly suffering serious medical complications because they did not know how to manage their prescription drugs or treatments correctly. Since that time, the company has been dedicated to bridging the communications gap between patients, health professionals, pharmaceutical companies, employers and insurance companies. The company's team of health professionals and creative experts work together to ensure that medical terminology is translated into language that people can understand and that the final design makes the information even easier to comprehend. The company has won major national and international awards for excellence in patient education and consumer information.

Dr. Smith is a strong patient advocate and has appeared on hundreds of television and radio programs across the country to increase consumer awareness of their important role in prescription drug therapy and what they can do to get the most benefit from these therapies. She is the author of 23 books on prescription medicines for consumers and has delivered more than 200 addresses to professional, regulatory, government and consumer audiences in the United States, Canada and Europe.

Consumer Health Information is affiliated with more than 30 universities and offers a clinical clerkship teaching program for senior Doctor of Pharmacy students who learn how to integrate their drug information expertise and patient counseling skills. The company has served on the Board of Directors for the National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE), the National Board of Advisors for the University of Arizona, College of Pharmacy, and the Dean's Advisory Council for the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, College of Pharmacy.

About ACCP
The American College of Clinical Pharmacy (http://www.accp.com) is a professional and scientific society that provides leadership, education, advocacy, and resources enabling clinical pharmacists to achieve excellence in practice and research. ACCP's membership is comprised of practitioners, scientists, educators, administrators, students, residents, fellows, and others committed to excellence in clinical pharmacy and patient pharmacotherapy.

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