Dr. Dorothy L. Smith Interviewed by the American College of Cardiology: Getting to the Heart of Patient Adherence

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An internationally-known pharmacist and cardiologist discuss the importance of patient adherence to prescribed drug therapy. It is critical that patients understand the written instructions they are given by doctors and pharmacists. It is only when drugs are taken correctly that the overall benefits and long-term value of initial drug costs will be realized.

Dr. Dorothy L. Smith, founder and president of Consumer Health Information Corporation, was recently interviewed on the subject of patient adherence by Dr. Janet S. Wright, senior vice president for science and quality at the American College of Cardiology (ACC). The taped interview can be viewed on ACC's Cardiosource Video Network at http://www.cardiosource.com/cvn/index.asp?videoid=911
Patients need information they can understand.

Dr. Smith ( http://www.consumer-health.com/biography.htm) stated that medication adherence is a serious problem because patients cannot understand the information they are receiving on how to take prescription drugs. They are trying to make wise decisions but often end up deciding to stop taking a drug. For example:

  • 10% of patients decide in their doctor's office NOT to fill a prescription because the physician has not explained how the drug will help them.
  • Of those who DO decide to fill the prescription, 50% do not take the medications correctly because they cannot understand the instructions.
  • 30% - 85% of patients on chronic medications decide not to REFILL their prescriptions because they don't know how to tell if the drug is helping them. Or they may think they are developing a side effect and don't know how to manage it. They stop taking the drug and think they are making a wise decision. This can be very dangerous because some medications must never be stopped suddenly.

These statistics will worsen because the current economic crisis is forcing many patients to take half a dose or stop taking their medications completely.

When patients decide not to take a prescription drug, they will not receive the full benefit of the drug and could be putting their health in danger. Furthermore, physicians sometimes do not know that patients are not taking the medications they have prescribed. Patients usually do not tell their physicians because they are trying to please the physician.

The gap in health care reform

Health care reform needs to address the costs and risks to a patient's life when they are not taught how to take their prescription drugs correctly. Dr. Smith stated that, "Everyone in society, including the government, is focusing on the cost of a medication and not its overall value of patients getting the most benefit from the therapy."                

If a medication is not taken correctly, health care costs increase significantly. Studies have shown that the direct and indirect costs are twice as much to treat the complications of medication non-adherence as the initial cost to purchase all the prescription drugs in the US. This means that hundreds of billions of dollars could be saved annually if patients received the information and tools they need to manage their prescription drugs safely and wisely.

Dr. Smith summarized, "Many patients cannot understand the information they are receiving from their doctors and pharmacists. There is a need to translate medical terminology into language patients can understand. You can improve patient adherence by at least 50% if you do it correctly."

Consumer Health Information Corporation
The mission of Consumer Health Information Corporation http://www.consumer-health.com/ is to help patients learn how to manage their diseases and prescribed treatments safely and wisely. The company develops evidence-based patient education programs that bridge the communications gap between patients, health professionals, pharmaceutical companies, employers and insurance companies The Company has won major national and international awards for excellence in patient education and consumer information programs.

The American College of Cardiology (ACC)
The American College of Cardiology's ( http://www.acc.org/ ) mission is to advocate for quality cardiovascular care through education, research promotion, development and application of standards and guidelines, and to influence health care policy. Founded in 1949 by 14 pioneering cardiologists, the ACC today is a thriving, international organization with 36,000 members. ACC's many initiatives in education, science and quality, advocacy and member services are well suited to the vision of the founders.


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