One in every four prescriptions goes unfilled, according to a study recently published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine regarding medication adherence. It's a difficult subject to study, they say, defining medication adherence as "the degree of patient compliance with providers' recommendations about the daily timing, dosage, and frequency of medication use."
John Ekiert, CFO of Hometown Pharmacy Solutions, which has locations in Brookfield and Girard, reported that the number of prescriptions left to be filled at local Hometown Pharmacies that aren't picked up are around a dozen a week. "You always wonder why they didn't pick it up," he said.
Ekiert said people may leave prescriptions behind due to the expense of the medication or simply because they can't afford it. Hometown pharmacists often locate coupons or direct people to patient assistance programs in order to alleviate their costs. "We try to help them out as much as we can," Ekiert said.
Tribune Chronicle / Bonnie Hazen
Elizabeth Despain, 68, of Hubbard, holds a container filled with her prescription medications. Despain admits she’s left a significant number of prescriptions unfilled due to cost, and she’s not alone. According to a study recently published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, one in every four prescriptions goes unfilled.
He said their pharmacists always call at least once or twice to remind people that their prescriptions are ready before restocking them.
Other local pharmacies refused to comment on the matter of unfilled prescriptions.
Elizabeth Despain, 68, of Hubbard, said she's left a significant amount of prescriptions unfilled. "They cost too much," she explained, recalling several stomach medications that would have cost more than $300 for a one-month supply. "Even with the insurance, it's not affordable I've been lucky that the doctor will work with me," she said.
At a glance
- 1 in 4 prescriptions goes unfilled.
- Patients 18 and younger are most likely to get their needed medications.
- Newly prescribed medications for conditions like diabetes and hypertension are least likely to be filled.
- Journal of General Internal Medicine, February 2010
Despain recently had stomach surgery, and she said her decision to have it was influenced by the fact that she would no longer need to take some of the expensive medications.
She still takes seven doses of prescription medication daily, which she fills at Walgreens because she said they are cheaper and the pharmacists are helpful in getting her a good price.
Shelly Golden, 40, a registered nurse at the Vibra Hospital of Mahoning Valley, Trumbull Campus, in Warren, said the number of unfilled prescriptions as reported by the JGIM is "a huge number" but said it may be related to the state of the economy, lack of insurance or lack of money for people to pay their co-pays.
The high cost of medication doesn't affect senior citizens alone; college students are another group that may face financial strain involving health care. Youngstown State University graduate student Christopher Lettera, 23, of Hubbard, was diagnosed with poison sumac in September, and his doctor prescribed a steroid cream that he nearly left at the pharmacy. "They kept trying to charge me an astronomical amount for it," he recalled. It rang up for around $150, but Lettera said the pharmacist was helpful and resolved the apparent mix-up. However, if the prescription price had actually been $150, Lettera said, "I'd keep the poison sumac."
For those who may not fill prescriptions due to cost, RX for Ohio is a patient assistance program that provides prescription drugs directly from manufacturers to qualified, low-income people. They offer a single point of access to more than 150 patient assistance programs, directing patients to the public or private programs that are best suited to their needs.
Local pharmacies, too, may offer assistance, and people should see what options are available at the pharmacy.
Giant Eagle spokesperson Dan Donovan said, "Part of our commitment to patient-focused care is the great overall value found with offerings including free antibiotics, free diabetes medications and $4 and $10 generic medications."