Too many patients aren’t filling their prescriptions. Here’s how the industry can change that.

Medication adherence is a large and growing challenge for pharma companies, healthcare providers and the patients they serve. In the U.S. alone, medication nonadherence causes an estimated 125,000 deaths per year. No doubt, increasing the rate at which patients fill their prescriptions—and stay on their medications as prescribed—could greatly improve health outcomes.

But improving medication adherence is far from easy. One in five patients report failing to fill a prescription in the past, according to research from Phreesia. Patients neglect to fill first-time prescriptions and refills at about the same rate: 40% report not picking up new medications and 37% have not refilled a current prescription.

So how can the industry tackle medication non-adherence? The key is to begin engaging with patients the moment the prescription is written to help identify the obstacles preventing patients from filling scripts and connect patients with tailored resources to overcome them.

The need for patient engagement and education is clear. Phreesia’s research revealed that 25% of patients do not fully understand what to do next after meeting with their doctor, and 29% don’t feel confident they know how to manage their condition. What’s more, 29% of patients cite concerns about side effects as a barrier to filling a prescription. And when patients decline to refill a prescription for a medicine they’re currently taking, the top reason they cite is that they don’t think they need it anymore.

Better educating patients in the moments immediately before and after they are prescribed a medication is critical to ensuring they understand that the benefits of the therapy will outweigh perceived risks.

“The importance of patient education around the condition, diagnosis, and treatment plan, especially at key decision-making moments for patients and caregivers, should not be underestimated,” said Sarah Walters, VP for U.S. Cardiovascular, Renal and Metabolic Diseases at AstraZeneca. “For patients living with chronic diseases like chronic kidney disease and heart failure, early intervention is crucial to preventing disease progression and adverse events.”

The good news is that there’s an increasing array of tools and resources that can help enhance patient engagement. Technologies can help uncover barriers that are preventing patients from filling prescriptions so brands can tailor solutions to individual patients’ needs.

“We understand that each patient is unique, which makes personalized support crucial, especially at diagnosis or other moments of change during their treatment journey,” Walters said.

Another common issue that can be addressed at the point of care is cost concerns. For example, 11% of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) surveyed by Phreesia reported that they stopped taking their medicine because of cost, and 41% said they would like to receive information about financial support that’s available to help them pay for their medicines. Pharma companies can provide copay cards for new prescriptions or information on patient-assistance programs.

“These programs can provide a personalized approach to ensure patients are supported throughout their treatment journey and offer resources that can help streamline questions around cost and insurance,” Walters said.

The editorial staff had no role in this post's creation.