Why Are So Many Americans Not Taking Their Medicine?

May 5, 2017 | Aging Services Risk, Quality, & Safety Guidance

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​The reasons behind the "staggering" number of Americans who do not adhere to prescriptions were the focus of an April 17, 2017, article in the New York Times. The article noted that, for example, a third of kidney transplant patients fail to take their anti-rejection medications and 31% of heart attack patients do not take blood pressure medicine. Such lack of adherence, the article said, causes about 125,000 deaths, increases hospitalizations by 10%, and costs the healthcare industry $100 billion to $289 billion each year. There are myriad reasons for nonadherence. This inclination to stop taking medicine in the absence of noticeable symptoms is common. One study cited in the article found reasons given for not taking medicine to be general statements like, "I'm old fashioned—I don't take medicine for nothing" or "I'm not a pill person." Medications also serve to remind people that they are sick, and may be viewed as "unnatural."

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